Colin Fargus

Colin’s diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia was picked up by a simple routine blood test, with Colin having brushed off his initial symptoms. Now, having just finished treatment, Colin shares his story.

I had a routine blood test two days after a Mediterranean cruise. My wife Jo had noticed bruising on me, but I thought nothing of this, or that I was sleeping a lot during the day. I’d had a tumour removed from my neck three years ago followed by seven weeks of radiotherapy, so I was on a six-monthly check-up and the blood test just happened to be two days after our cruise.

I was called back to the hospital to have another blood test the next day. They then phoned me to say I had to go straight to the hospital.

I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in October 2017, taken into Torrevieja Hospital for two days, then transferred to Alicante General Teaching Hospital where they specialise in blood cancers. I was hospitalised for nearly two months, no Wi-Fi, no TV, couldn’t leave the room. My wife Jo came to stop most nights, with my daughter Ellie filling in on the nights Jo could not come.

There are around eight rooms on this floor and the staff were great, as were the doctors, as my Spanish is not very good; one or two of the nurses spoke English and all three doctors spoke English. The food was not bad but of course I wasn’t allowed certain foods.

My treatment started on the Friday night the day I arrived. I then had a biopsy, which was sent to Valencia to identify the DNA make-up of the cancer, so they could treat this better. I had lots of different drips, was on steroids, arsenic, antibiotics, pills morning and night. This went on for two months until I asked the doctor if I could leave and finish my treatment in the day hospital. He went to check my bloods and said they were good, so they let me go but kept the room on reservation for me for three weeks. I had to return every day including weekends at 8.30am. They said if I was late or didn’t turn up then I would lose the room, which was fair.

Once I got there, I would get into bed, wait to be weighed, and have an ECG. If this was okay, my arsenic was ordered, which took two hours and 15 minutes to go into my system. I was also on 10mg of Vesanoid, which I took four of in the morning and five at night, starting for two weeks at the same time as my arsenic. Arsenic lasted for four weeks, then I would start another two weeks of Vesanoid. These pills could give you bad headaches, but I would take 500mg of paracetamol in the morning and at night; this made these pills more bearable and helped with the headaches.

After three weeks we were in December and I was at the day hospital. My wife drove me there every day, but I now had weekends off. It was a 100km round trip. As soon as we arrived at the hospital we would go to the fifth floor for an ECG then take this to the day hospital. You could wait up to two hours some days before you were called into one of four rooms to have your treatment; this was because of the amount of people having treatment. I used to have a month of treatment which I was told would be slow, but not a strong dose of arsenic, which was good as I did not have many side effects apart from itching all over.

I finished treatment on Friday 22nd June. I got the all clear on Monday 13th August; this is a lucky number in Spain! I now have blood test every two to three months and biopsy every six months for five years, as well as a check-up and scans for my first cancer. Time for a holiday in France.

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