David Fischer: my story

David was 69-years-old when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) after having COVID-19. Following four rounds of chemotherapy, which was difficult for both him and his husband, he has now been in remission for two years. David shares his story here…

My diagnosis

“I was born in New York City on 12th March 1952. I attended a special High School in New York called Performing Arts High School (that silly school where they filmed the movie “Fame”), where I met my husband. We were 13 and initially just friends. I trained as a classical pianist, although I didn’t do this for my work. I am a linguist by profession and was working in this field for American Express when I received my diagnosis.  

In January 2021, I came down with a severe case of COVID-19. I was at the point of retirement anyway when I got COVID-19 so I took the opportunity to officially retire from AMEX. I was unwell for about 6 weeks and although I was feeling a bit better, I was totally drained and not well. I went to the GP for a routine blood test, and they called me to say my blood count was dangerously low. I followed this up with a visit to the outpatient haematology department at Sussex Hospital, where they gave me an on-the-spot transfusion and suggested a bone marrow biopsy, which I had a few days later. The results confirmed I had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). 

Other than having my appendix out as a teenager, I had never really been in hospital. Besides the diagnosis being a total shock and frightening, I had to go through four rounds of chemotherapy in hospital. That was, 4 weeks in hospital, 4 weeks at home, repeated 4 times. I was basically under treatment for 32 weeks. It was beyond horrible, especially for my husband who was frantic about my diagnosis, and, at the time, we were both unsure what the prognosis and future might hold. 

In many ways, I think it was more tough on my husband than on myself. We’re both American born so we still have family back in The States but none in England. This was actually a big issue for us when I became ill. Although we have a nice circle of friends who were all very helpful (and we also engaged people to provide help where needed), we don’t have any family in England who could have provided practical help. This specially made my husband feel isolated.

However, what was very helpful was that the care I received was excellent. Both in hospital and the aftercare were terrific. Every step of the way was explained very clearly so we both felt better and more secure about that. And, once I finished treatment and started to get visibly better, we both relaxed.”

Life beyond treatment

“Fortunately, I came through the induction phase well and after the second round of chemo I went into remission. I finished rounds three and four and the doctors were very happy with how I came through this. I have now been in 100% remission for exactly two years and my consultant is very pleased that my long-term outlook is excellent. All I need to do now is have a bone marrow every 3 months and a blood test. But, at the time, it was really difficult. I’m a good patient and came through the treatment well, but I lost 25 pounds and looked terrible for quite a while after the chemo ended. It took about 6 months to get back to myself and, currently, I feel good and look good (so they tell me!). 

I am still involved in piano performance and for about 18 months the treatment affected my ability to concentrate and keep up my practicing. About 9 months ago, I went back to taking lessons from a master teacher and have signed up to take my master’s degree at Trinity College in London starting this September. Both my doctor and my piano teacher feel I have a future! 

Our social lives were limited while I was unwell, of course. But now that I am well again, we have resumed a wonderful, retired life: plays, concerts art exhibits (my husband is an artist and very involved with the Brighton art scene) and we socialise quite a lot. We have also celebrated our 52nd anniversary. 

About 6 weeks ago, I started counselling to help deal with some lingering issues about my diagnosis. The counsellor has been wonderful and besides talking about the medical issues, we discuss other points which are affecting my life.”

Support services

If you or a loved one needs advice or support regarding your diagnosis, please get in touch. You can call our free helpline on 08088 010 444 and speak to one of our nurses. Alternatively, you can send a message to our team via WhatsApp on 07500 068 065 (services available Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm).

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