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Lucy is 52 and lives in Billingshurst, West Sussex with her partner Guy. In 2014 she was diagnosed with a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) after suffering from recurring swelling and bruising on one of her fingers. Lucy decided to visit her GP to find the cause of her problem after her middle finger had turned a blue/black colour several times, which she initially treated by antihistamines that seemed to take care of the problem.
After it happened for a third time, Lucy took a picture of her finger and showed it to her GP who decided to take a blood test and carry out an x-ray. The dark colour turned out to be unrelated, and Lucy was told it was to do with her age.
The blood test revealed a very low white blood cell count and was referred to the haematology department in Chichester. It was there that they originally suspected she had hairy cell leukaemia, but due to the rapid decline of her white blood cell count they discovered it was more serious and she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of MDS.
Lucy did not experience any recognisable symptoms before her diagnosis. However looking back, Lucy realised that she became short of breath quite easily following light exercise, a commonly reported symptom in patients with MDS.
After diagnosis, a bone marrow transplant was recommended for Lucy, so her treatment process began. Fortunately for Lucy, her sister turned out to be a complete match, and was happy to be the donor. Lucy began her initial chemotherapy treatment on the Graffham Ward at St. Richard’s Hospital. By this point, Lucy’s blood cancer had progressed to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
The first 10-day round brought her leukaemic cell count down but she was unable to be admitted for the bone marrow transplant, as it needed to be lower. After another eight-day chemotherapy course, Lucy’s leukaemic cells reduced to the right level and she was given an admission date.
Once in her isolation room, Lucy underwent a further gruelling course of chemo, followed by her bone marrow transplant on August 7th 2014.
Throughout her treatment, Lucy tried to get up and get dressed every day and made sure she kept moving, making small changes like opting to use the bathroom rather than rely on bedpans. Lucy said she did everything she could to remain human. Unfortunately Lucy did not expect the reaction to her first dose of chemotherapy, and experienced side effects such as swelling with the onset of mucositis.
Lucy used her iPad and Facebook as a way of keeping in touch with the outside world for five weeks whilst in isolation. Lucy experienced feelings of weakness and coldness in the first few weeks after her discharge, but she made it her challenge to get moving and get herself back to a sense of normality as quickly as possible. Lucy has tried to keep a positive attitude which she said helped her a lot and motivated her to keep pushing herself in her recovery.
Lucy is now 15 months on from her bone marrow transplant and is well on the road to recovery. Lucy now spends her time updating her blog which she started to help her cope with her blood cancer and is back to work full time. She is also enjoying holidays again, and has been skiing in March this year, and recently visited Barbados. With the return of her strength and stamina, she runs for around thirty minutes every day, and has recently joined her local gym and country club where she enjoys regular fitness classes as well as her routine work out.
Moving forward she is delighted to have her life back and to be able get out shopping and see the friends and family she had to avoid for so long.
You can follow Lucy’s journey on her blog at www.lucy-hart.com.