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Katherine Sinfield

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Katherine Sinfeild
As a primary school teacher, my trips to the doctors with agonising headaches and chest infections did not put leukaemia to the top of the possible causes pile.
 
In fact, my headaches were so bad that I had exhausted the list of over-the-counter remedies. Paracetamol was useless and I was taking the maximum number of Ibuprofen-lysine tablets you were allowed in a day. Nothing worked.
 
Things came to a painful conclusion on a day trip to the seaside when I simply couldn't walk. My left leg was hot and swollen and I had to be taken home with the car seat reclined so that I could try and lie down to ease the pain.
 
Miraculously, the pain subsided that evening and I managed yet another week at work before the problem returned the following weekend.
 
Stories of accident and emergency departments being full of drunks at the weekend caused us to delay our visit until early on the Monday morning. Internet research had already pointed us in the direction of deep vein thrombosis. Our visit to A&E at the Queen's Hospital in Burton-on-Trent was Monday, April 15th, 2013.
 
The triage nurse on duty also suspected DVT as the leg was much bigger than usual, was red, very hot and solid to the touch. Routine blood tests were taken and I was taken for an ultra-sound to find the clot.
 
No clot was found in the leg; it had travelled to the lung and I had a pulmonary embolism. But this wasn't the worst of the news - the worst was yet to come in that my white blood cell count was 286 (typical normal levels for an adult females are 3.9-11.1). I had chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).
 
After just 11 days in hospital, I was discharged on the wonder-drug Imatinib. Life returned to some normality and my husband returned to work.
 
My white cell count started to reduce nicely - it was 77 by April 30 and a fairly normal 2.4 by May 21. However, by early June my count started to rise - slowly at first - but then very rapidly until it reached the high 30s.
 
Everything changed on Monday, June 24 - just two months after initial diagnosis. I was to spend the next 7 and a half weeks at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham undergoing the strongest chemotherapy available. A search was also started to find a bone marrow donor and my newspaper awareness campaign started with a bang. My husband also started what turned out to be 11 months off work.
 
The first front page newspaper headline to my campaign was 'Please don't let me die' as I kick-started my 'Take Five Minutes' campaign in the Burton Mail and Ashbourne News Telegraph with an aim of raising awareness, raising money and increasing bone marrow and blood donors.
 
My treatment went well and after yet more chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and many more days in hospital I underwent a bone marrow transplant on October 29th, 2013. My new birthday was also my late-mother's birthday.
 
My donor was found by the charity Anthony Nolan and is a German lady. I know her weight but don't know her age or any more about this life-saving stranger.
In the meantime, my newspaper campaign was going from strength-to-strength.
 
We had managed to increase the number of potential blood and bone marrow donors in the Burton-on-Trent area by 15 per cent. I was in the middle of planning various fundraising events and I started a used-stamp collection for Leukaemia CARE.
 
Fast-forward a few months and my campaign continues. My Leukaemia CARE stamp collection has raised more than £1,000 for the charity through more than 150kg of used stamp donations. I've been mentioned in Parliament, received praise from the Prime Minister and continue to press the Government for changes.
 
In March we also held our first BONE-shaker MARROW-thon - a charity motorcycle ride between the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham (where I was treated) to the Queen's Hospital in Burton (where I was diagnosed). The ride attracted more than 100 bikes and trikes and raised more than £2,000 which was split between Cure Leukaemia, Anthony Nolan and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity.
 
The main focus of my campaigning involves the charity Anthony Nolan and the need to increase bone marrow donors as the UK - statistics are pretty shocking. I believe education is key to improving understanding and in turn improving donor numbers. Therefore I have workshops and registration days planned at the town's largest sixth-form provider and I'm pressing to have the issue of donors and transplants included on examination papers and curriculums. 
 
As I regain my strength following my leukaemia, I find new ways of raising awareness or raising funds. I'm already planning next year's BONE-shaker MARROW-thon ride, I'm on the hunt for Lego to build a replica of the Birmingham hospital and I want to write a children's story on bone marrow donors.