It was just after Christmas in 2010 when Ryan, then aged 23 and a student at Sheffield University, started to notice symptoms. He was working a winter job in a bookshop back home in London, but was finding just walking the shop floor exhausting, despite sleeping well, and had noticed angry rashes appearing in random places across his body.
After a month of experiencing extreme tiredness and rashes, along with an increasingly gaunt complexion and eventually, heart palpitations, Ryan went to visit his GP. However, having a runny nose (which doctors later realised was as a result of his depleted immune system) he was told he simply had a cold.
Putting it down to either stress or flu, Ryan returned to Sheffield, but soon realised something was wrong when he found himself struggling to even make it up his driveway.
With his symptoms worsening, Ryan visited four different walk-in centres in a day, only to be told the same thing each time, that he had a cold. Unsatisfied with the response, he resolutely walked back into one walk-in centre and showed a different doctor his rashes. This time he was immediately booked in for a blood test at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, with the GP paying for his cab to get there. It was only then that he was finally diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
For the five weeks that followed, Ryan lived in a haematology ward, regularly being pumped with intense chemotherapy and steroid treatment. It was during this time that he was given his prognosis; he had a good chance of remission, but it was going to be a long, arduous treatment plan. The treatment plan was, in fact, three and a half years, with the first nine months involving intense, weekly doses of chemotherapy.
In mid-February of 2011, he was discharged from hospital. He remained in Sheffield for a further four weeks, receiving intense chemotherapy medication, before relocating back home with his family and being admitted to Churchill Hospital, Oxford.
Over the next three years, as a result of his treatment, Ryan lost most of his hair, missed his graduation and missed out on travelling. But he remained determined to beat the disease and overcome the physical difficulties he faced as a result of his medication.
Ryan underwent his final treatment in September last year and, aside from a few bouts of pneumonia, his health has remained relatively stable. Unfortunately, the intense steroid treatment he has received has reduced the blood supply to both of his hips, resulting in Avascular Necrosis, or bone death. This has left Ryan permanently disabled, with a worsening left hip which will, one day, need to be replaced.
Ryan’s biggest challenge, however, has been coping mentally; being able to admit he was experiencing mental health issues as he tried to understand his situation.
Now, more than four years on since his diagnosis and one year on from completing his final treatment, Ryan is still in remission. Ryan is now wholly supportive of any activity that helps to raise awareness of blood cancers so that in future, symptoms will be recognised much quicker and diagnoses given much sooner.