I took part in last year’s Step Out challenge to prove to myself I can take on anything, all whilst raising money for a charity close to my heart. I wanted the opportunity to challenge myself, but also reflect on my own journey and relationship with leukaemia.
I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) at 69. I was spending time on my beloved allotment, weeding, when after bending down for some time I would feel incredibly dizzy when standing up. I was always healthy and I immediately knew something was wrong; I knew my body well enough not to do anything!
That same day, I saw a GP who asked lots of questions, tested me all over and suggested he couldn’t tell me what was wrong, and that I should see my GP as soon as possible.
I duly saw him seven days later, had a blood test and went home. Two hours later, the phone began ringing; instantly, I knew there was something more. I was told to pack my bag and go straight to hospital where they would be waiting for me.
I woke up the next morning, surrounded by surgical beeping and five figures standing at my feet, informing me I had leukaemia. I was in a state of shock. I was perfectly healthy, how did dizziness lead to leukaemia?
Seven months of treatment, blood transfusions and painful bone marrow extractions ensued. The transfusions were no longer working to replenish my bloods. I needed a stem cell transplant and amazingly, Anthony Nolan was able to find a German man with the identical blood group and genes as myself, and I was transferred to Kings College Hospital in London for my transplant.
After the transplant, I spent three months in isolation to stay well. Those months were difficult, but the prospect of having my life back kept me going. I was weak, but now at 79 years old, I live life to the full.
It can be nerve-wracking; the transplants, isolation and all the other bits that come with a diagnosis many people might not realise. But, if you are offered another chance at life, why wouldn’t you go for it?
The symptoms of leukaemia can be so varied, but you know your own body, so please speak up if something isn’t quite right. I now try my best to raise awareness and funds for charity, like through the Step Out challenge so others can have another shot at life, just like me.
Step by step, mile by mile, I thought of the others who shared a similar experience as me. Walking through the harbour, listening to the muffled sounds of waves and gulls, and it reminded me of how much I had been through, and how much others continue to go through. That’s why I fundraise, to help in any way I can. The feeling you get from giving back is indescribable.
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