I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) on 27 November 2012, aged 36. It was a huge shock as I had always been such a healthy person.
I had visited my GP with a pain in my abdomen which I thought may be appendicitis. The GP wasn’t sure so she sent me to hospital for some tests. I assumed it would be something and nothing so I was concerned about wasting people’s time and about taking time off work.
Following a blood test I met with a consultant haematologist who delivered the news. It is a moment I will never forget. I couldn’t really take it in at first and as ridiculous as it sounds, I initially thought there must have been a mistake and perhaps my bloods had been mixed up with someone who was genuinely ill!
As I began to accept my diagnosis I feared the worse. All sort of things were going through my head initially: Would I die? When would I die? Would I get to see my children grow up? Could I have a bone marrow transplant? Would I lose my hair? Could this type of cancer spread? I am usually a really strong person but I was terrified.
Looking back I had experienced some symptoms: I was always tired, but I had put this down to having a job and two young children. I had lost some weight, but again thought this was due to being so busy. I had also had some quite severe bruises, but I had always bruised fairly easily and just thought I must have been really clumsy of late.
I was admitted to hospital that day and started a course of oral chemotherapy to reduce my white blood count. I have to say the doctors and hospital staff at the Royal Gwent in Newport were amazing. I received excellent care and I spent those two weeks learning more about CML and the treatment options available. I was determined to fight this disease and to be there for my family.
I was told about a wonder drug called imatinib that was introduced in 1998. The introduction of this drug and other similar targeted therapies which followed, have revolutionised the treatment of CML, which was once a death sentence.
I feel hugely lucky that I am now being treated with imatinib and while it is early days for me, there is a very good chance that imatinib will keep my CML under control for many years allowing me to live a near normal life. I just take a tablet each day and while there are some side effects, they are very manageable.
I now feel very positive about the future and have hope that one day there will be a cure for CML and other blood cancers.