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Acute myeloid leukaemia - my diagnosis

Posted by
08 May 2013

My name is Derek. I am 44 and live with my wife & 2 dogs  in Lanarkshire.

Late in February, having been going in and out of the warm house and cold air outside to do a few things one night, I developed an ache that I thought would result in a cold over the next few days. However just as I felt as if a cold was going to take hold, the feeling went away.

Six days later I had a pretty good temperature going and thought "maybe this is a chest infection". To cut a long story short, over the next 6 days I got worse, and developed rigors, despite seeing my GP twice and having two different antibiotics prescribed. On Monday 4th March I saw my GP for a third time and he didn't mess about, saying he was now concerned. He therefore sent me to the local A&E department for further assessment.

I was diagnosed as having pneumonia. However, one of the doctors informed me I had abnormal haematology results and was seeking advice.

The next day, between blood cultures and a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy in hospital,  the haematologist  gave me the news that I had acute leukaemia. It was a couple of days later in the Haematology Unit that another Consultant Haematologist told me it was acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), and that thankfully my 'risk factor' was good. I have, if I'm correct, 'translocation 821'.

My chemotherapy started on Friday 8th March for ten days. Despite having a reaction that night to one of the drugs, and a five day spell in high dependency as my temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels went a bit haywire, I have responded well so far. My neutrophils reached 0.7 within two and a half weeks of my last day of chemotherapy, and my other counts were well up. This led to me getting home on Thursday 4th April. I got another bone marrow aspiration on 9th April (most of it for the clinical trials which I immediately signed up for. I am already benefitting from those who have done so before me, so it is only right I do likewise).

I was re-admitted on 15th April to start more chemotherapy, that being my second cycle. I'm now waiting on my blood counts to rise again with the hope of some time back home before cycle three of the chemotherapy.

My wife has been fantastic, as have all our family, friends and colleagues. My wife has even arranged to donate platelets to the blood transfusion service as a way of giving something back in gratitude for the treatment I've had so far.

I am intending doing the LLR 5K 'Forget me not' walk in Glasgow in September. Obviously I need to see what happens but am determined to beat this. There are no guarantees for me yet and I am realistic about that but with the help of the medical & nursing staff, my family, friends and colleagues, I intend to put up a strong fight and try and get back to health.