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Helen Laude

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Helen Laude

“I had a cough for six weeks and thought something must be wrong, that’s what made me go to see my GP.”

Helen Laude was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) at the age of 34. She had been battling with a persistent cough and a feeling of pressure in her chest. Six weeks later, Helen was still suffering with these problems and decided it was time to go to the doctors to get it checked out.

“My GP gave me a thorough examination but couldn’t find anything untoward at that point; I was told to come back if things got worse or didn’t improve.” One week after her doctor’s appointment, Helen began to feel breathless; so much so, walking upstairs was a struggle.

Helen returned to see her GP and was sent for a chest x-ray. Following the results, her GP called her in to explain what was going on, she was told it showed mediastinal (chest) widening, which suggested lymphoma. “From then on, I knew something was seriously wrong and things started to move quickly.” Two days later, Helen was sent for a CT scan with a follow up appointment to see a chest consultant who told her the next stage was to take a biopsy of her chest.

The results of the biopsy came through very quickly and Helen was called into the haematology department in Newcastle. With no diagnosis still yet confirmed, a bone marrow biopsy was taken. “That's when everything changed. Just two days before Christmas, I was diagnosed with ALL. I was left devastated and shocked by the news. I was terrified about my future and worried how I would look after my children.”

Helen was allowed home for Christmas with a dose of steroids. She started her first cycle of chemotherapy on 28th December 2011 and was in hospital for New Years Eve. She met the criteria for the UKALL 14 clinical trial and her treatment plan followed this trial. “Hospital became my second home; eight months of intensive chemo, 28 blood transfusions and five platelet transfusions, not to mention several hospital admissions, followed by two years of oral and IV chemo and lumbar punctures.”

Good news came quite early on through Helen’s treatment journey; going into remission within the first month. Fortunately, she was deemed standard risk and therefore didn’t require a transplant. Treatment is still required to prevent a relapse. 

“Through the early stages of my diagnosis, information was key and I found Leukaemia CARE’s website was a great source to turn to as well as their inspiring quarterly magazine, Journey. My family and I were recently awarded a grant of shopping vouchers for which we are very grateful to Leukaemia CARE.”

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a rare type of blood cancer cancer. Around 400 adults are diagnosed with ALL each year in the UK and affects males more than females. ALL occurs most frequently in children under 15; in adults it is most common between the ages of 15-25 and in people over 75. (Source: Macmillan)

“My advice through this experience would be; have trust in your medical team. Ask questions when you’re unsure, but remember the team of nurses, doctors and consultants looking after you, are the ones that will make you better. I am a mum to two wonderful little boys who are my inspiration and my motivation is to be well enough to look after them.”