Ellie Dawes
Posted by
Ellie Dawes

Clara Markiewicz’s story

Ellie Dawes
Posted by
Ellie Dawes
11 Jan 2013

When I was four I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) for which I was treated over five months with a 50/50 chance of survival, during which I lived in hospital with my mum.

I had four rounds of chemo - I was offered five but the doctors said the chances of me relapsing were the same if I just stuck to four. My parents decided against the fifth one as the side-effects could have been worse.

After each round of chemo I would be ok for a few days and then my blood counts would start going down until I would usually have zero neutrophils and then infections would usually kick in. I was often very sick during these times. At one point my brother had to be tested in case I needed a bone marrow transplant and at another point I had to have an operation to check the damage to my gut and nearly had a temporary colostomy. I also had to be on a morphine drip for a while, but I reacted badly to it so I was put on an alternative.

I often felt too sick and sore to eat and nothing tasted right. My mum asked all our visitors to bring home cooked food to tempt me - I remember my favourites were chicken noodle soup and lentil soup. I would have them for breakfast, one of the hospital cleaners called it "strong food"! There came a point where I had lost too much weight, like everybody in this situation, so I had a nose tube inserted and would be hooked up to a "kangaroo machine" every night which would pump liquid food into my stomach.

Every three weeks or so I would start to feel better and the doctors would actually let me and my mum (and the "kangaroo") go home for a night before the next lot of chemo would start.

Just a month before Christmas I was given the all clear and got to go home. I will never forget it - my aunty, brother, dad and friends had strung a home-made banner all across our house with ‘Welcome home Ingrid and Clara’ written on it. It was November and dark, but the front garden was lit up with flame-torches shining on the banner. We all had a meal at home and went to a show put on by the local primary school in celebration of my recovery.

Christmas with all my extended family was amazing, even though I was bald and had tubes (Hickman and nose tube) coming out of me, it felt to me and my family that it was the perfect celebration for my all clear, and hopefully the end of cancer in me. And it was! My energy and my hair came back very quickly in the next few months and I was very soon back to being a normal, lively little kid.

After being told I was in remission I had very regular check-ups every month and slowly, as more time went past and I didn't relapse, the check-ups got further and further apart. Now I go once a year and I have a heart scan every four years because one of the walls of my heart was weakened by the chemo and this is how it will be now for the rest of my life.

I had six operations over the course of my treatment and a seventh after going into remission to take out my Hickman line. This year I have to go back and have an eighth to try and release some scar tissue created by my Hickman line, which is now catching on my collar bone and stopping me from moving comfortably.

My gut was damaged to the point that now, even after all these years, I have problems absorbing certain fats and vitamins that I need to be healthy. Unfortunately I have recently been told I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, which means I get tired very easily and my limbs hurt a great deal. My tiredness could also be as a result of my slightly weak heart which means I get out of breath more easily than a lot of people, although I can still do most things.

I still think that I'm very lucky compared to some people! 11 years later I haven't relapsed and despite some side-effects, I am a normal teenage girl. I still remember most of my treatment and I have been inspired to become a children's nurse to help kids like me going through cancer to hopefully be as lucky as I was and get to live.”


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