I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in 2003 after suffering from a sore mouth. However, it was my dentist who told my doctor I had AML.
I had a sore mouth, but we were going on holiday on a cruise, so I asked the dentist if he would take a couple of teeth out for me.
They came out very easily, but he said, ‘Your mouth’s not right, there’s something wrong here.’
I said, ‘Well what about my holiday?’
He said, ‘Well, go and have your holiday, but when you come back I want to see you.’
So, I came back on a Thursday and I told him my mouth was still sore. He looked at it and he rang my doctor. My doctor then rang me the same day, I had a blood test the following day, and the next Tuesday I was in hospital for nearly six months; it was AML.
My dentist actually worked in the hospital. He’d had a section where he did dental work for the whole hospital. I think he’s saved two or three people. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today.
I had been seeing the doctors before the dentist. I was given antibiotics for this and antibiotics for that. We had a locum come in and he said something was wrong with my bloods, but nobody followed it up. There was the fault, but I wouldn’t blame anybody, being a locum.
However, I had never heard of leukaemia. The first thing I said to one of the consultants was, ‘Who’s given me that?’
With an illness, they say you’ve got that for this, but when I looked where I worked, I worked in paints and inks and used all these oils, and some of the oils we used were cancerous. Nobody tells you this, which is like in any factory I suppose. I think if it hadn’t happened years ago, I would’ve put a claim against the company.
After I was discharged, I decided to volunteer for Macmillan. I did it for 10 years on a Monday afternoon, volunteering at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton. I never thought of dying, but a lot of people do, and I didn’t realise this. I’d say to them, ‘I had AML four years ago’, and the smiles would come on their faces. They could see there’s somebody who’s living.
I don’t volunteer anymore because I’ve had a stroke, only a slight stroke but I had two, one after the other. They said, ‘You look after yourself, Graham, and have your own time.’
I like to think the doctors could have done more. At the time, there was a bit of a to-do at the surgery because this doctor of ours was struck off and there were things going on. That’s why these different doctors were coming in. Really, they should have followed up what this one locum had done but nobody did; that’s the missing link. But as I say, once I got to the hospital there was no messing. I was in on the Tuesday and the chemo started on the Thursday. I had the Hickman line in and I think everything went alright. I never suffered too much under the chemotherapy; I was perhaps one of the lucky ones.
I’ve had no relapses or anything, but I’ve come out in a rash and they’ve done blood tests and they don’t know what’s caused the rash. They thought it was glandular fever but it’s not that. But I’ve been told that the scan results are alright. Just when we thought what’s this rash and all that, and I’ve got a little bit of a sore mouth too, the first thing my wife thinks of is AML. Because that’s where it all started, with a sore mouth, plus you’ve got your fatigue and I’ve got no energy. My wife knows that’s not me – if I’ve got to do something I’m doing it now – but now I don’t, I just take it easy.