“When I was 70, I started to feel unwell. I went to the GP who gave me iron tablets and antibiotics. I had various infections in my ears and eyes, and I had also developed red patches all over my body. I saw a dermatologist who said my patches were caused by psoriasis, and I was given various creams.
I felt fatigued which went on for months. I had a blood test, but I was never told there was a problem. I found that I couldn’t walk far without sitting down, even 100 years was too much. Eventually, I went to my GP every day for a week, and I just sat there and said I was very ill and asked what they would do about it. I recall saying on the last visit, “I think I’m going to die if you don’t do something. I feel polluted,” and he looked totally shocked.
Following a further blood test, I was sent to the acute unit at the local hospital where I was examined, but still not diagnosed. They told me my blood count was of someone on chemotherapy, yet I was still discharged and sent home.
Some days later, I was called in to see a consultant haematologist who arranged for a blood test at the local hospital. The following day, he phoned and told me the results were serious and show very low readings, and that he had booked me in at St Bart’s Hospital and to go straight there where I would be admitted. I can’t say that I was surprised – I knew something was really wrong with me.
On arrival, I was seen by a consultant haematologist; bloods and bone marrow were taken, and he later told me I had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), and treatment would begin the following day.
I had four weeks in a room being treated with chemotherapy, home for four weeks and back in for seven weeks of more chemotherapy. I had regular bone marrow checks, blood, and platelet transfusions. I was put on a trial, FLAG-Ida, which was a very harsh treatment and it left me very weak and unwell.
I was always positive during my treatment; I had complete faith in my consultant and his staff. It was a long time spent in the hospital, but it was made tolerable by their kindness. My specialist nurse was fantastic and was always on hand to help. I was allowed out into the garden for a few minutes each day. How great that was! Fresh and a Costa coffee to keep me going.
Following discharge from hospital, I made regular trips to St Bart’s Hospital for blood and platelets, which lasted for several weeks. I was eventually seen by Colchester Hospital to save me the costs of continual visits to Bart’s. I gradually improved – my levels started to rise but never reached ‘normal,’ but high is enough to keep me reasonably fit and healthy.
I am currently in remission, having blood tests and being seen four times a year shared between Bart’s and Colchester Hospital. Treatment by hospitals is second to none, but I have no faith in the GPs who failed to notice my condition. I even took Leukaemia Care leaflets along and offer of an online course, but it was not taken up by them. It concerns me that information detecting leukaemia is so comprehensive that the condition should be obvious.
Now at 75 years of age, I feel very fortunate to have good health and more fortunate than some people who have not survived.
I must admit that I was totally taken aback by suddenly being told I had AML. I was a retired police officer and have dealt with many serious and sad incidents. I was always, shall I say, strong, but if I’m honest, AML really affected me and made me feel vulnerable. I was always thinking about if it would return, and it took me several months to get back to some sort of normality.
Leukaemia Care was brilliant and provided me with counselling. It is strange for some who had helped bereaved families to be on the other end of counselling. My dear wife visited me almost every day and had a lot to put up with; the stress and worry of seeing me so ill. She certainly was fantastic.
I am a very lucky man. Leukaemia Care is a great organisation promoting the recognition of leukaemia. The sad thing is some of the stories I read reflect my undetected condition – it seems to be coming that it goes unnoticed for months sometimes.
Thanks for your continued support for people like me.”
Derek’s symptoms of leukaemia were:
• Repeated infections
Are you currently dealing with similar symptoms to Derek’s? If so, contact your GP and ask for a blood test.
For more information on our Spot Leukaemia campaign, our goal and how to get involved, head over to our official Spot Leukaemia website at www.spotleukaemia.org.uk
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Derek’s experience with our Ann Ashley Counselling Fund
“I found out about Leukaemia Care having been given leaflets in the hospital. I read about the counselling fund and I thought the service would be very useful, so I decided to get in touch and email the team at LC. They were brilliant in providing me with counselling.
As a retired police officer, I have dealt with many serious and sad incidents, however, I was taken aback completely when I received my sudden AML diagnosis. I have always been strong, but my diagnosis really affected me and made me feel vulnerable continually thinking it might return. It took me several months to get back to some sort of normality.
From being someone who had helped bereaved families to now being on the other end of counselling was strange. Debbie the counsellor was very approachable and I felt very comfortable in her company. During our sessions, we discussed my feelings about my AML returning, which was the main problem I had been experiencing. We also discussed many other aspects of my life, such as my childhood, family and career which I found very useful.
The counselling service has made me feel much more in touch and not isolated, I was surprised that there are so many people out there like me. I do feel easier about my diagnosis, but I still have an underlying worry that I still find hard to dismiss. To be honest, I think this is something that is in my makeup and unlikely to change. However, Debbie did identify that the seriousness of my illness and the fact that I only just survived had a major impact on me.
I am a very lucky man, Leukaemia Care is a great organisation promoting the recognition of leukaemia. The sad thing is that the stories I read reflect my undetected condition, it seems to be very common that it goes unnoticed for months sometimes.
I would recommend that anyone with leukaemia get in touch with Leukaemia Care; it will undoubtedly give you some peace of mind when things seem so unreal. The counselling helped me to live without worrying all the time, it is difficult when you seem to live from month to month and worry if you will get a return of Leukaemia.
Everyone needs help at some time. This service is remarkable and is extremely understanding of problems. Don’t be shy – give it a try!
I was so impressed with the help and information I now donate monthly. Thanks for your continued support for people like me.”