I started treatment at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, and had my long line fitted three weeks after my diagnosis. My consultant offered us the chance to be part of a clinical trial, having three blocks of intensive treatment instead of two and I was keen to do this to help other children and their families in the future. Treatment was hard – lots of the other children had radiation too, but I had chemotherapy over the two years I was treated. I lost my hair twice, but refused to wear a wig or a hat; I wanted others to understand cancer better and wanted to be as strong as I could to encourage other children.
Being in hospital was tough where treatment was concerned and often I went in feeling much better than when I came out. But I was very keen to understand what the medicines were and how they would affect my body – I was an inquisitive child and known for asking questions! I made some wonderful friends as a result of my illness and have fond memories of the times we spent together. I’m also lucky enough to have gotten back in touch with one of them very recently.
Leukaemia CARE were available for my parents to offer support, advice and information if and when it was needed and the service they provide for those affected by leukaemia is invaluable. It’s amazing that 22 years after being diagnosed, they are still so actively involved in my leukaemia journey and now they’ve grown even stronger through their online presence and social media. Leukaemia is never something I can ‘forget’ about, but they do offer wonderful support to move on from the experience and deal with the emotional challenges this brings.
After three blocks of intensive treatment, on April 19th 1994, I was given the ‘all-clear’ after a bone marrow biopsy and lumbar puncture. The journey didn’t end there for me, though, as I continued to visit the hospital for regular reviews, check ups and investigations, again mainly to help other families in the future. I had heart ultrasounds, bone age tests and cognitive tests to assess any effects the treatment had on my body and none were found.
I qualified from Durham University as a teacher of English in 2008 and in 2010 married my husband 19 years after my diagnosis. In 2011, I visited my consultant to tell him that I was pregnant and in April that year, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Orlaith and a year later, her sister Emelie. I’m so incredibly lucky that because of research and support, I’ve had no long term side effects from my treatment to date and continue to live a healthy life, raising money for charities and living every day to its fullest. This year, I celebrate being 20 years all clear!