In April 2015, I was on holiday in Spain. I returned home with hot sweats, flu-like symptoms and blood in my urine.
I visited my GP, who attempted to treat my symptoms with no success. I was then admitted to the High Dependency Unit at Coventry Hospital.
I stayed in hospital for a week, where I was diagnosed with sepsis. I was treated successfully and went back to work. I had follow-up blood tests and then went on holiday again to Bournemouth. At this time, I was still weak and needed blood transfusions.
In October 2015, I had a follow-up blood test and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). I was admitted to hospital the same day and started treatment with three courses of chemotherapy. The first course nearly killed me. At the end of it, bacteria in my gut reacted badly to chemo and began attacking my stomach lining. I was kept in hospital for a further five weeks and was nil by mouth. I also had a catheter and Hickman line fitted, as well as a stomach pump.
Gradually, I got well. By January 2016 I had completed three courses of chemotherapy and in March 2016 was given a 10/10 match for stem cell transplant by the Anthony Nolan team. The transplant was carried out successfully and I discovered my donor was from Minnesota in the USA.
Just a month later in April I was discharged from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Since then, I have had over 20 infections due to graft versus host disease (GVHD), ranging from sore throats and skin rashes to C-diff, for which I’ve been hospitalised a few times.
In July 2017, I then had a hernia operation due to inactivity whilst in hospital. I was also diagnosed with haemorrhoids due to severe diarrhoea.
Since January 2018, I have been in reasonably good health, though I did develop shingles in the same month, which I’ve still got.
My advice would be to do what the doctors and nurses tell you; don’t try to be too clever. Recovery takes time and realistically some folk don’t make it. It’s not necessarily strength, but perseverance, that counts over time. Before cancer struck, I was 15 ½ stone, which was obese. I went down to 9 ½ stone about a year ago due to another dose of C-diff and am now 12 ½ stone, which is great.
I’d also advise having a positive outlook. You’ll have rough days, but the good will outweigh the bad in the end. I hope this helps.
A 2021 update
When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was at work, so I went straight from my workplace to an isolation room. I found this very difficult to comprehend later on. That was October 2015. I had four rounds of chemotherapy and then a transplant in March 2016.
The changes in my weight and the constant infections concerned me at the time. When I first got ill, I was 15+ stone. I was nine stone at one stage. But my weight gradually went up and I’m now 13 stone, which I have been for a few years.
After the transplant, I had up to 20 different infections of one kind or another: skin rashes on my face, arms and upper body; C-diff for which I was hospitalised a few times; mouth ulcers; eye infections; an inflammation of my colon for which I was hospitalised; continual diarrhoea on and off for two years. This last one was mainly due to food allergies I had due to Graft-versus-Host-Disease (GvHD). Thankfully, I’m over that now.
People at work would ask me when I was coming back. However, I decided to take retirement. I had a pension, thankfully, but I couldn’t have gone back as the cancer had taken a lot out of me. I lost a lot of stamina and strength. I did go back for a spell as a volunteer at a local hospital, but after a couple of hours that was my limit. I left just before the pandemic as I didn’t want to get an infection.
Nowadays, I take it easy and do jobs around the house. I exercise daily, and I have two dogs; they help. My partner has health issues too so I help her. I’m 65 now, so I’d be retiring anyway. I still have contact with the hospital for monitoring purposes, but now I simply watch my weight and try to eat and sleep well.