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Susan Isaacs

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

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53-year-old Susan Isaacs from Great Yarmouth was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) after a routine mammogram four years ago. The tiredness she was experiencing was passed off as a by-product of her age and other than that was experiencing no symptoms that caused her to be concerned.

After her mammogram, she received a phone call, asking her to come back for another test. She recalls: “I wasn’t that worried as I’d always examined my breasts and tried to be aware of any changes so I just assumed there was something wrong with the first test.” Further mammograms were taken, as well as an ultrasound and a core needle biopsy (a test used to get more information about a breast lump than a mammogram or ultrasound can give).

“It was then I started to become more anxious,” explains Susan. “The doctor examined my breasts and I asked them exactly what it was they were looking for. I was quite inquisitive and, as a friend of mine had had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, I remembered that one of the symptoms were enlarged lymph glands. It crossed my mind as to whether it could be that.

“After these tests, I was referred to a haematologist. He explained to me that the mammogram did discover enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit, chest, abdomen, groin and neck areas but the diagnosis was CLL.”

“The only way I can describe the way I felt at that moment was poleaxed. I never for one moment felt it would be me that was receiving a cancer diagnosis – especially leukaemia after a mammogram!”

A diagnosis of CLL doesn’t always require treatment straight away, which is referred to as ‘watch and wait’. Since her diagnosis, Susan hasn’t received any treatment but sees her haematologist regularly for blood tests and check ups.

Susan says: “I had no real symptoms at the point of diagnosis but I do feel incredibly lucky to be diagnosed by complete chance. I will be forever grateful to the entire medical team who referred me quickly and diagnosed me early. The CLL is being monitored, meaning we can react to any significant changes in my body as we need to.

“My diagnosis certainly hasn’t been doom and gloom. Four years down the line I feel the same as I did before I was diagnosed. I may need treatment at a later date, but until that point, I’m enjoying my life.”

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). It is usually more common in males than females and generally affects older over 55 years old. It is the most prevalent form of leukaemia.