Lauren Shrimpton

After her diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), Lauren realised she’d been experiencing many of the classic symptoms of leukaemia. However, like many patients, she assumed these symptoms couldn’t possibly be a sign of anything serious. Here, she tells her Spot Leukaemia story.

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.

Lauren 1 month pre-diagnosis

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.

Lauren at 6 months post-diagnosis

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.

Lauren at 9 months post-diagnosis

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.

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