July 2020 was when I started to feel quite poorly. I was struggling to get over a cold that I had caught from my niece; with people starting to mingle after lockdown, illnesses started spreading. I just remember feeling pretty under the weather and even my husband’s Granny kept saying to me that I really didn’t look well.
A week after contracting this cold it started to ease ever so slightly, but I noticed my vision wasn’t right. If I was reading something parts of it were blocked out, and my vision near mealtimes was going patchy and blue. I put it down to maybe low blood sugar or I was lacking something. Either way, I ignored it for a few more days until the Monday, when I was at work and I was really struggling to read the computer and still felt pretty run down. I ended up going home and calling the doctors, who agreed maybe I was lacking in something and sent me for a blood test the following day.
I had my blood test and waited for a phone call with my results. The following day, the doctors called me to say I needed to go into them for a once over and check all my vitals etc. I put the phone down and then within less than a minute they called back and told me to ignore that – go straight to A&E and ask for a certain doctor. My husband, Rob, was literally about to walk out the door to go out with some friends that he hadn’t seen for ages when I told him. I still at this point thought nothing of it and just thought maybe I had a bad infection. We went to the hospital, I had more bloods
and then was fitted with a canular. The nurses even said, “Your white blood cells are really high, how are you still walking around?” Again, I was very relaxed and chilled and didn’t think anything of it, even though I don’t like needles and, due to COVID-19, I was alone in the waiting room.
A lovely female doctor came down and took me to a side room and discussed some symptoms that I had been having leading up to me coming in. I had explained about the cold, my vision; I also mentioned to her that I had a very heavy period the week before which led me to believe I was iron deficient, but she went on to ask about night sweats, breathlessness, tiredness. She then asked if anyone was here with me, and I should have realised then that something was really wrong.
She went and collected Rob from the car park, bringing him into the room, and proceeded to tell me that I had a form of leukaemia. She was pretty certain it was chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), but she would need to do a bone marrow aspiration to be certain.
My world just fell apart in those few moments. I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock, and the rest of that afternoon was a blur with telling my parents and a few close friends and work colleagues.
I was admitted to hospital as my white blood cell count was dangerously high and they needed to reduce them to a safe level. I was immediately started on a drip and had to begin taking chemotherapy tablets that made me very sick. I underwent the bone marrow aspiration the following day and was luckily allowed to have Rob with me – it took three doctors three attempts to get a sample as my blood cells were so compacted.
A few days into my hospital stay my levels weren’t dropping quick enough so the only way to get my levels down quicker was to take about a pint of blood. It was another incredibly uncomfortable experience where they couldn’t get the massive needle into my veins. I was battered and bruised by the end of it. I had grown an extra bum cheek and my arm had doubled in size.
One whole week in hospital and I was desperate to go home and see Rob and our little boy Arthur, who at the time was only two years old. He didn’t have a clue why mummy had gone missing for a week; I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him the day I went to hospital as he was at the childminders.
Home at last and mission recovery had begun. I was still taking the chemo tablets every day for another two weeks, but I had also started on my tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) medication called dasatinib. I will be taking this every day for the rest of my life; it keeps the bad cells at bay.
One year on and my levels are looking really good, I am currently in Major Molecular Response (MMR) where my cells are becoming undetectable. I have managed to link with a few people in the same situation as me and learn how they were diagnosed.
Looking back now, I know that I ignored my body for a very long time before getting checked out. Back in February of last year, I was getting really bad mid-back pains, and I also started losing a lot of weight, which I put down to being on Slimming World and doing well for our up-and-coming wedding. A month or so before diagnosis, I also suffered from abdominal pains which stopped me from eating so much. Now that I have learnt a lot about my condition and I look at the signs and symptoms, I had the majority of them, but I was so incredibly naïve to the illness I didn’t think anything of it.
One year on and I’m ready to shout about it and teach people more about leukaemia, because like myself, many people I have spoken to don’t realise leukaemia isn’t just a child’s illness and that blood cancer are some of the most common cancers in the world.