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What was meant to be the happiest time of my life actually turned into a nightmare I could never have imagined would happen to me.
I had just met my new partner in April 2009 and before I knew it, in the November, I discovered I was pregnant. After the initial shock wore off, we were delighted and couldn't wait to start a family.
I continued working full time as a staff nurse and eagerly awaited my twelve week scan. It eventually came around and I was so relieved to hear that everything was developing as it should be. I gave an overview of my medical history to the midwife and she took my bloods; one of which included a full blood count. I was told this is routinely taken from pregnant women purely for the anaemia risk in pregnancy. I was told I should look toward to a happy and healthy pregnancy as I was young and fit and no medical problems were identified… Little did I know that was all set to change.
About a day later I pondered over my results (I am a natural worrier who wants to know everything!). Naughtily, I checked my own results on the computer at the hospital and all did not seem well. As a nurse I knew that a white cell count of 29 wasn't just an infection and my high platelets seemed odd. In a frenzy, I called the midwife who reassured me that occasionally women can have a high cell count early on in pregnancy and it was probably nothing to be worried about. However, this didn't sit well with me and intuition told me that something far more sinister was going on.
Later that day after me telling my husband and my mum what I thought, I received a phone call from a consultant obstetrician who agreed that my blood test results didn't look normal and that he was referring me to a consultant haematologist. At this point I had a inkling that I had leukaemia (yes I googled it!). I was stressed and scared my poor husband and parents to death. I will never forget being asked to go in and see the consultant.
On arrival, I was sat down in a room with a specialist nurse and a doctor and thought, “well if it's nothing then they wouldn't have been so formal.” Before the news was delivered I said, “I know what it is, I just don't know what type.” I'm pretty sure they hadn't met a patient like me before!
They explained their findings and that they were certain I had chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) but that it would have to be confirmed via a bone marrow aspiration and cytogenetic analysis. My diagnosis was confirmed two days later.
I was shocked and felt sick to the stomach, as did all my family. At this point I was 14 weeks pregnant and I said to the doctor, “I don't care about me, I want this baby and I want everything to be okay.” He told me it would be, and, true to their word they got me through the following six months without a bump in the road. I remained treatment-free, only taking aspirin once a day to prevent the high platelet count causing any placental problems. I had monthly full blood checks and luckily, there was no progression of my CML during this time.
I’ll be honest, I felt like my happiness had been sucked right out of me. I was anxious a lot and focused on my diagnosis and what might happen to me. I didn’t want to die. I should have been thinking about sleepless nights and prams and I will be forever bitter that I never enjoyed my pregnancy like I should have.
In July 2010, the most perfect baby girl was born, completely healthy and all of a sudden it all seemed worth it. We called her Isabella and she is now a gorgeous, beautiful, caring little four-year-old who I feel saved my life.
I started treatment a month after giving birth with a revolutionary treatment – the silver bullet – Imatinib, that had been used since 2001. It was a targeted therapy that would switch off the abnormal gene I harboured to allow me to carry on producing healthy cells as well as killing cancer cells. I am now proud to say I have a very low level of disease left and have been in major molecular remission for three years.
I have no side effects and I have a happy, healthy child. Life is as normal as it gets. I attend appointments every three months for bloods but for the best part I live like nothing ever happened thanks to this fantastic medication that saved me from chemotherapy.
I will continue to take the medication for as long as it works and I am grateful for all the things that went well.
In terms of having more children, yes it is possible, but it would mean stopping treatment for a little while. I find that very scary so for now I shall embrace what I have and appreciate the here and now.