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Mary Brockington

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Mary front cover SMALL

In 1999, luck, good fortune or even fate meant that I was in the right place at the right time. I was working at the Nuffield Health Derby Hospital, on the administrative side, when as ‘perks of the job’ I was offered a Well Woman check-up. That changed my life.

I went in feeling fine and happy only for the doctor to ring the next morning and inform me that I had chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). It was a shock. I didn't have any symptoms before diagnosis and, in fact, felt particularly well! My immediate reaction was, “Okay, let’s get this sorted and get on with life for as long as I have left.”

My husband was away at the time and so I had to wait 48 hours to tell him the news. He was shocked, but then very calm and positive. Through his Rotary Club, he knew a haematologist, who he rang up and was told, “Bring her in at 9am tomorrow.”

After blood tests and bone marrow samples, he confirmed the diagnosis. I was immediately put on medication with a daily injection. However, the drug was prone to make you depressed, and as I suffered from nervous problems and had a breakdown, it was not suitable.

My consultant then said he wanted to put me on a trial at the Hammersmith for imatinib (Glivec), so an appointment was made and down I went. Professor Goldman saw me and agreed I should go on imatinib. I was too old for a stem cell transplant, which would have been another option.

The trial was very well organised and as stress free as possible, and as I had to travel from Derby for the treatment, that was an important feature. The staff at the Hammersmith were exceptionably kind and helpful and have been whenever I have visited the hospital, which I’ve done now for 16 years.

So, I went on imatinib, which proved to save my life. I tolerated it well with only mild side effects, which was a bonus. The side effects included mouth ulcers, which I still get, swelling of my ankles, for which I went on diuretics for a time, as well as cramp.

I feel very privileged to have been under such a wonderful team at the Hammersmith and now, 18 years on, I am in total remission and lead a full normal life. I went to support groups as well and found them very helpful, but as they were quite a distance I didn't go very often. However, I think they are a wonderful idea.

I have three monthly check ups in Derby and return to the Hammersmith every six months. I am on 400mg imatinib daily. At the moment, I am having a slight problem with anaemia but when my dosage was reduced to 300mg my blood count increased. However, my CML count rose very slightly so I am now back on 400mg and will see at my next consultation what has happened. I am very lucky that the CML was picked up in its early stages and treated with a new drug. Do not worry about going on a trial, it is the way forward. Here I am at nearly 79 living a full and normal life and very thankful for medical science.

My advice to all readers is don’t even think it is the end. Be positive, look forward with hope and a thankful heart for medical science and wonderful medical care.

I class myself as one of the luckiest people in the world to have been in the right place at the right time. Good luck with your journey.