I am under a rheumatologist after being diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) back in around 2006. My current medications had stopped working for me, so I was tried on another drug (mycophenolate) which needed two-weekly blood monitoring. My full blood count started going a bit crazy, even to the point of neutropenia, but the person I was seeing every two weeks said it was okay and we just carried on.
This went on for quite a while and I was due to go on holiday when my bloods became very low. They advised if I were ill when away to go straight to a doctors or hospital. I went and had a great time, but the day after I got back my legs were covered completely in bruises, they had just come from nowhere. I rang my GP, who advised I needed bloods done ASAP, and as I was going to have my monitoring the following day, she agreed that would be okay.
I had my bloods done, waited for results and a nurse came out to say all was fine and I could go. I said I wanted to see someone about bruising that had appeared overnight. I spoke to someone who said he would send me to a haematologist. I went home and a few hours later had a phone call to ask me to come straight in with an overnight bag. I was obviously a bit worried at this point, but at no point did I think cancer. I was put into a private room and the doctor told me and my husband that he thought it was acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and I needed a bone marrow biopsy which would give us the results.
That night I had so many platelets that I lost count and I needed blood transfusions. I had the results the following day that it was indeed AML. My husband and my family were devasted and I was in shock. I ended up having a central line fitted that day as there was no one available to insert a PICC, so I could commence treatment straight away. I ended up being in hospital for around four weeks on that instance. I had four cycles of chemotherapy, which took around six months as my bloods were slow to recover. I lost all my hair which was a massive blow to my self-esteem, but I put on a hard façade which to this day I still carry with me. It has changed me a lot as a person in many ways.
I have now been in remission for six years but still see a consultant every six months. After my treatment finished, I wanted to give something back, so started doing voluntary work at the hospital I was treated. I worked within the hospital charity helping out and later was taken on as a permanent member of staff where I stayed for a couple of years. I am still working at the hospital, but I am now back where I started on Ward B4 Haematology I am now the ward receptionist for three days a week and my selling point for the job was being a previous patient; I can show empathy and know what people are going through.