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Iraine Lindsay

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Iraine Lindsay 2

I am sorry to say that I had no idea about leukaemia until I was diagnosed with it a few days after my partner’s birthday. Looking back now I realise that I did have a few of the obvious symptoms. I was tired, I had a nose bleed which had lasted a long time, I was breathless and really had no energy.

On the Monday, I woke up feeling decidedly unwell, with an horrendous pain in my neck (and no, not my partner) due to a lump and then started popping paracetamol. My partner became worried and rang the out of hours GP, who just diagnosed me with a slipped disc in my neck. He gave me a painkiller injection in my hip, which bled profusely, and told me to just keep taking painkillers.

After four days, I was feeling decidedly worse, but I managed to drag myself to my GP who immediately asked for me to have blood tests there and then. Much to my surprise, at 9pm that same evening there was a knock at my door. I just thought it was either a taxi or takeaway being delivered to the wrong address, but no it was a doctor with an ambulance on its way. He did quite abruptly tell me that I had leukaemia and I was going to be admitted into hospital immediately.

That was when the panic set in; I had two young children who were in bed, so my partner had to stay at home with them. I did a few emergency phone calls asking for people to help Paul and one to my mum. I reached the hospital in shock, still not believing anything was wrong with me, that someone had made a mistake and I just had a virus.

About 90 minutes later, I was hooked up to an antibiotic drip and a doctor came in the room to tell me that I had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). I had absolutely no idea what it was and felt silly for not recognising any of the few symptoms I had.

I had all the usual types of tests to see if I was fit enough to begin chemotherapy, and I was accepted on a trial. This meant I had the chemotherapy every day for seven days, then a rest for three weeks, after which I had a bone marrow biopsy. I had all the usual side effects, hair loss, sickness, but luckily no sore mouth. Also, I had real problems with memory. I forgot the names of things, which was very embarrassing when I couldn't remember nurses’ names I saw nearly every day.

I also had an operation to remove the lump in my neck. It was originally thought it might be sarcoma. Luckily, it was not, and to this day no one is 100% sure what it was. It caused horrendous headaches and fainting spells, but after the operation all the symptoms just disappeared.

I was extremely lucky that I went into remission after just my first cycle of chemotherapy. I had to have three further rounds of chemotherapy, but here I am now still in remission after 30 months.

What I found most difficult was the guilt I felt for leaving my children for over six months. I did have time at home throughout and even managed to make my mum’s wedding, albeit in a wheelchair. Once everything was over and I was at home I found it extremely difficult to not think that I was going to relapse at any minute. However, now I feel fine and no longer think like that. The doctors, nurses, HCA's and all the other staff I met were absolutely fantastic and without them I would never have made it through. I can never thank them enough.