Abbi Evans

In October 2018, Abbi began feeling nauseous and was prompted to visit her GP by colleagues. It was only after she finally got her diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukaemia that she realised she had been having a number of leukaemia symptoms. Here, she tells her story.

Around October 2018, I was on and off feeling quite nauseous. I didn’t really think much of it until about five to six weeks later when a few colleagues of mine said I should maybe see a doctor just to get checked out.

I saw a doctor and they initially didn’t know what was wrong with me. They thought the nausea could be a sign of pregnancy, but after ruling this out they asked me to go back the next day for a blood test as they had no idea. I went at 9am for a test and by 5pm they called. This was probably the worst part of my diagnosis as I was sat at home alone, getting ready for a night out when the doctor called and said, “Your white blood cell count is really high and we think you have leukaemia.” I still look back now and think how horrific that was to hear on the phone and whilst I was alone.

As you can imagine, I was shocked and phased in and out of the conversation from then. I remember him saying letters like CLL or CML but until I googled them later on, I wasn’t sure what he had said. He told me that the hospital would be in touch within the next two days. This was incorrect; fast-track from the hospital is within two weeks, so I spent a week and a half worrying what was happening to me until it was 100% confirmed.

Since that first meeting with the consultant and having the conversation, the next few days were being me poked and prodded for tests. I had to straight away have the bone marrow biopsy, possibly the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life; however, this confirmed that I was at the first stage (chronic) of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). I also had to go for an ultrasound to check if my spleen was enlarged but luckily it wasn’t.

I think I was pretty lucky with catching it so early; however, we have no idea how long I had this for. It’s been quite tough physically and emotionally. At the start I just phased it out – I did what I needed to do but other than that I didn’t think about it, didn’t really speak about how I was feeling other than if I felt sick or not. I think now that I am six months in I am finally starting to deal with this news. I am quite a private person when it comes to talking about my feelings so I tend to just shut people out and deal with it on my own which can be very frustrating to my family and friends.

I am currently still undergoing treatment, taking imatinib (Gleevec) once a day. Everything seems to be stable and I take this at night just as I’m going to sleep so that I sleep through most of the side effects. If I am lucky enough to go into remission and stay clear for two years, I can then maybe try coming off imatinib. However, with it being a chronic condition, I could be on the tablets forever. I also needed to take treatment straight away, so, unfortunately, the option of freezing my eggs wasn’t available and this has taken an emotional toll.

At the time of my diagnosis, I thought the only symptom I had was feeling nauseous. Once being diagnosed and looking at other symptoms, I realised that I also had the night sweats (which I just put down to being hot) and also weight loss and bone ache (which I put down to going to the gym).

The Spot Leukaemia campaign is massively important. Although I have this condition, which isn’t lucky, I’m also very lucky to have found this so early and I can take a tablet a day rather than having to have full chemo. I would dread to think of the pain.

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