Freya Clarke

26-year-old Freya Clarke was experiencing the sights and sounds of both Bali and Australia when her trip was cut short by a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia. Freya now shares her story of diagnosis and treatment.

I was working well over 60-hour weeks for a couple of months to save money to spend a couple of weeks in Bali and then a working holiday in Australia.

Around a month before leaving I was having issues with my teeth; bad pain which I just put down to my wisdom teeth coming through.

I noticed I was quite tired but put it down to working such long hours. I also spotted bad bruising on my arms and legs around three weeks prior to being diagnosed, but due to a love affair with gin I thought perhaps I was just walking into tables, so didn’t think much of it.

Once I had flown to Bali I began to experience more bruises and my period was a lot heavier and longer than usual. It continued for 10-12 days but I just put it down to stress. Once it stopped I didn’t think too much of it.

In Australia, I began to have night sweats and my teeth started acting up again. I also began to notice tiny little red dots on my upper arm. Upon inspecting my teeth, I saw how badly bruised they were, and after having laser hair removal on my underarm and bikini line, both areas were showing large amounts of bruising, which is unusual.

Two days after these symptoms arose I went to the GP, who referred me to the hospital for a blood test. At first, they thought I had thrombocytopenia. I was then called back into the hospital and was told to be really careful getting in as my blood levels were dangerously low.

I had another blood test at the hospital and was told that I had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) on 17th October 2018. Following diagnosis, I had an urgent platelet transfusion as my platelets were at five. I then had more blood transfusions as an in-patient before starting my first cycle of chemotherapy.

I reacted really badly due to a few rumbling infections I had already and was sedated in ICU for seven weeks. Luckily, I came around after they created a new type of antibiotic for my infection and quickly got stronger and stronger. I left hospital on 27th December 2018 and returned to the UK on 3rd January 2019. Following my return to the UK they were reluctant to give me more chemotherapy due to ongoing issues with my stomach. I had surgery to sort out the issues on 1st June and had my intestines washed out, appendix removed, and right fallopian tube removed.

I now have blood tests every six weeks to spot for fluctuating blood levels. Until this happens I will not receive any more chemotherapy.

Blood cancer isn’t a cancer that many people have awareness of. The symptoms aren’t widely known, and neither is treatment. If I had known of the symptoms earlier, then I would have gone to the doctors earlier. Awareness also needs to be spread as not enough people have registered to Anthony Nolan and are unaware of how important it is to give blood.

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