Mike Beal

Mike’s chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) diagnosis came as a shock after experiencing no signs and symptoms of leukaemia at age 67. Now 70, Mike has been navigating his way through Watch and Wait. Here, he tells his Spot Leukaemia story…

“Before I received my chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) diagnosis, there was nothing that pointed to any illness in my general health. I had no idea that I was even slightly vulnerable to CLL.

My diagnosis came somewhat out of the blue. I went to Nepal in November 2012 on a charity help activity. It was an amazing experience, and I would like to think that the group of us from Action Aid made a difference.

On the return flight from Delhi, I sat beside a man, for the eight-hour flight, who coughed almost continually. I thought nothing of it, as I was perfectly healthy and unless this was some indigenous disease, I would fight it off. Consequently, I developed a cough.

To start off with, it was just an irritation, but it continued. It wasn’t particularly bad, but not something that I felt was right for me. I had an appointment with the GP after about six months of the cough (not due to waiting lists, but because of inactivity on my part).
The first examination ended with a course of antibiotics, however not a lot has changed as a result of them. After another delay, I had a second appointment with the GP, who then referred me to the local hospital for a chest x-ray. I was given the all-clear, and no further action was required.

However, the cough persisted. I went back to the GP, which ultimately led to me having blood tests in June 2017. I was then called into the GP surgery for a follow-up consultation where I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) stage A.
It was sort of a shock, but I had prepared myself for something unpleasant as all the other options had been ruled out. My reaction was, “Not the news I wanted to hear, but we are where we are.”

I next received a letter from the cancer unit at St Richard’s Hospital. The clinical lead nurse was brilliant! She was very cheerful and explained everything I needed to know. I was very grateful for the early diagnosis even though it came from an examination (in my opinion) that had nothing to do with a search for cancer. I was introduced to the lead medical doctor, who explained the route of discovery to me. I was also told that I was more likely to die with CLL than because of it – happy with that!

I had a couple more appointments at the Fernhurst Centre for my subsequent blood test results. These were every six months on Watch and Wait. After a couple of years, I was told that I was to be transferred to monitoring annually by my GP. In my own way of saying it, I was not getting sick enough fast enough, but I was more than happy with that.

So, for the last couple of years, I have had my annual blood tests and my blood seems to be very stable. I will continue on Watch and Wait until some intervention is required. I was, and still am, enjoying golf, walking and keeping busy.
I attend the Leukaemia Care support group in Chichester, but I do feel like a bit of fraud when I hear some of the stories of others who attend. The group is very friendly and I have learned a lot from just being there, so I would recommend attending support groups if you can.

The main point of this epistle is not to show you how I have with CLL, but to make sure if something is not right for you, then persist with the GP until a solution/reason is found. It is the ‘something’ that is not ‘right for you’ which should be the driving force. Don’t be fobbed off with some generalisation; stick to your guns and do whatever is necessary to find out what is wrong. It may be a complete surprise but at least you will know. Unless I had made a pest of myself and had the blood tests, I would still be ignorant of my condition. Who knows what might have happened over the last couple of years if I had not been aware I was clinically vulnerable and behaved appropriately!”

Do you know what the six most common signs and symptoms of leukaemia are? They are:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Repeated infections

Are you currently experiencing any of these signs and symptoms? If so, contact your GP and ask for a blood test.

For more information on our Spot Leukaemia campaign, our goal and how to get involved, head over to our official Spot Leukaemia website at www.spotleukaemia.org.uk

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