It all started in the summer of 2016. I woke up and found it very painful to pass water; the second instance that year. I went to the doctors, and he had already sent me on a barrage of tests after the first urine infection (which had found nothing wrong), so I said I didn’t want to go through that again. He reluctantly said, “OK, let’s put you on a course of antibiotics, but if you get another urine infection in the next 12 months we must investigate further because it could be an indicator of something more serious.”
The next day my wife and I were off to a wedding in Lille, France. Originally, she was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to come because I was ill, but armed with my freshly prescribed antibiotics I said I would be OK… what’s the worst that could happen? Well, where do I start? It didn’t help that Lille was in the grips of a mini heatwave with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius. The heat would have been uncomfortable if I was fit and healthy, but with my ‘infection’ it was unbearable. The first day was really bad, but as the wedding was on the following day, I hoped that the antibiotics would start doing their job and I would be able to enjoy the day. Unfortunately, when I awoke on the day of the wedding, I felt worse – and when I say I felt worse, I mean much worse. I managed to make it through the wedding ceremony – just, but it was one of the longest, most torturous days I think I have ever experienced, closely followed by an equally tortuous evening.
We arrived back at home in the UK to find a message from the doctor on the house phone. “Hello, Mr Hyde? We have the results of your urine test and unfortunately the antibiotics I prescribed for you will not work against the infection you have. Could you please come back to the surgery as soon as possible to pick up a new prescription.” After another week of antibiotics, the infection was finally gone. I had lost six kilograms in weight over this period, which was a good thing. But instead of feeling good about life, I felt, well… not quite right.
I started back at the gym and playing squash, but I just didn’t seem to have as much energy as before. I put this down to being on antibiotics for an extended period. My muscles and joints ached pretty much all the time, and I started bruising very easily. All I had to do was bump gently into a door handle and a huge purple bruise would appear in a matter of minutes. If I were a medical professional, I would have been getting suspicious.
But a month passed and I still felt the same. I kept saying to my wife that I didn’t feel right; she would encourage me to see the doctor. Of course, I took this advice and put it on my ‘must-do’ list, then went to my old friend the internet. I put all my symptoms into one of those medical diagnosis programs and it said that I had either stomach cancer, a brain tumour, an underactive thyroid gland or a vitamin deficiency. Of course, it was obvious – I had a vitamin deficiency! So, I started taking various combinations of vitamins and it wasn’t long before – yes, you guessed it – nothing changed.
It was November 2016 when I was lying in bed and admiring my flat and firm stomach (I had lost 18 kilograms by this point). I remember thinking that all the hard work down the gym was paying off and under the fat, I was developing a six-pack! Unfortunately, I noticed something strange about my firm stomach. It wasn’t so much a six-pack, but more like a ‘three-pack.’ The left-hand side of my stomach was indeed rock hard, but the right-hand side was, well, flabby.
I should, of course, have arranged to see the doctor straight away, which is why I immediately went to my old friend the internet again. I had known what I know now, I would have presented my symptoms in such a way to the doctor that I would have been diagnosed much earlier than I was. Instead, I again pulled out my phone, put in my symptoms and it said: “A rigid abdomen is often the sign of an underlying condition such as stomach cancer.” In actual fact, most of the articles said the same thing. I looked up the survival rates for stomach cancer and it wasn’t pleasant reading. So, I thought a little bit of reverse psychology was required: I thought if I convinced myself that I did indeed have cancer, then when I went to the doctor he would tell me I was stupid and that in actual fact I had a simple case of cramp or something equally benign. The trouble was that, deep down, I knew I had cancer.
Christmas is a big thing to me and my family (mostly to me). Every year I take a few weeks off work and I make sure we have the best Christmas ever. I didn’t and don’t want my children to associate Christmas with me having cancer and dying. I want them to always associate Christmas with twinkly lights, decorations, great food, fun, family and love. So, I decided that if this was to be my last Christmas, it would be the best ever. I decided that I would go to the doctors in January. Yes, people do think like that and make decisions like that!
I am now doing well; I still have to cope with lots of side effects, but it’s a small price to pay.
I think that the Spot Leukaemia campaign is so important and is such a simple proposition. Just as the ‘Act FAST’ campaign has made it into our ‘common knowledge’, and has saved countless lives by spotting the early signs of a stroke, so should ‘Spot Leukaemia’. Being able to spot the early signs of leukaemia will have a dramatic effect on the early diagnosis of leukaemia, which I am sure will save lives, but will also reduce the amount of pain and discomfort that people go through immeasurably.
Update from Anthony
“Since my CML diagnosis in January 2017, I have had a roller coaster ride with respect to my medication and their side effects. In 2019, my Imatinib stopped working and my levels started to rise, so I enrolled on a drugs trial for Asciminib. It had an immediate effect and I reached Deep Molecular Remission within a year. The side effects were slightly worse, but still with it. Then of course we went into the first COVID lockdown and I had all this extra time on my hands, so I decided to write and finish my second book. I also dusted off my paintbrushes and easel and started painting again. More recently, I recorded the audiobook version of my first book, which detailed my leukaemia journey, and it is due to be released very soon. I know that lockdowns were a horrible time for many people, but I saw them as an opportunity that I grabbed with both hands and haven’t looked back. The next thing on my list is to get fit and lose some weight because I have been inspired by my daughter Emma and her bid to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon. I couldn’t be prouder and can’t wait to cheer her over the finish line!”
My dad and I: Emma’s reason for running
Emma is Anthony’s daughter and this year ran the London Landmarks Half Marathon on behalf of her dad, Leukaemia Care and all those affected by a leukaemia diagnosis.
“My father was diagnosed with CML in 2017 during my first year of university. I remember walking through campus one day and getting the call from my mum, I felt so helpless – what could I do to support them both through this journey? Since then, running has been a source of both stability and joy for me. I have run to raise money for leukaemia charities, I’ve run to process difficult emotions, and I’ve run to feel connected to a wider community experiencing the same highs and lows. It’s been an off and on relationship, but it’s always there for me when I need it and I’m now ready for another challenge!
I’m choosing to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon on behalf of Leukaemia Care, as I’ve experienced first-hand the amazing services they offer to leukaemia patients, not only through my father but also as their Campaigns Officer! Seeing first-hand every day what a difference Leukaemia Care makes to patients’ lives is incredibly special and I’d love to support this work further. I’ve never run London Landmarks before but I’m super excited to run through some of London’s most historic places and feel the buzz of the crowd cheering me on!
There’s still a chance to get involved with many of our running and other fundraising opportunities this year.”
Interested in joining Team LC?
As Emma said, there are plenty of running events to get involved in, and your name is on it! Here are just a few of what you can get involved with:
Vitality Big Half
4th September 2022
A half-marathon that starts near Tower Bridge and passes through Canary Wharf and Southwark before finishing at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. Be sure to secure your place by joining #TeamLC!
10th – 11th September 2022
With three events to choose from, Richmond Runfest is sure to keep you on your toes. Whether it be a 10K, a half-marathon or a full-marathon, enjoy the sights of London as you race through the city, starting from the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens.
2022 Great North Run
11th September 2022
Take on the largest half marathon in the world this September – places are first-come-first-served, so don’t wait! All members of Team LC will receive a complementary charity running vest to wear on the day.
Running not for you? We have plenty of fundraising opportunities to get involved with. Visit https://www.leukaemiacare.org.uk/get-involved/ to see how you can get involved or contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.