Henry Winter
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Garrie Talbot’s story

Henry Winter
Posted by
10 Dec 2013

“It all happened the week ending the 19th April 2013. On the Tuesday I was walking up the steps to the 9th floor of a car park in Leicester after a manager's meeting at head office. By the time I reached the 5th floor I was really out of breath. I stopped for a few minutes to regain control of my breath and carried on. When I reached the car I was absolutely tired out. I then drove the two and a half hours home and went straight to bed.

On the Wednesday my wife noticed that my gums where bleeding but I put this down to having just cleaned my teeth. My wife booked an appointment with the doctor for Friday 19th. I visited the doctor, who sent me straight to Basildon Hospital for a blood test. I had the test at 12.45 and by 15.45 I was being whisked by ambulance to St Bartholomew's Hospital in London being diagnosed with leukaemia.

It transpired that I had acute promyelocytic leukaemia. I was 52 at the time. I had four courses of chemotherapy along with ATRA and I lost four stone during the first course of treatment, due to the chemotherapy and other side effects. I finished the last course of chemotherapy on 29th August 2013. 

In March 2014 whilst relaxing in my front room, my son Adam noticed bruising on my left ankle bone and small blood spots at the bottom of my leg.  Advised if anything like this was to happen I needed to go to straight to A&E.

Well at 2230hrs on a friday night I took myself off to Basildon Hospital, showed my Chemotherapy Alert Card and within 40 minutes (after blood tests) I was told that my platelets were low and that I had relapsed. Off to St Barts Hospital in ambulance we go. Straight back onto the Atra tablets. The following morning my consultant confirmed that I had relapsed with Apl and that they were going to start me on ATO (Arsenic Trioxide) along with Atra.

The first dose of ATO is taken along side steriods for the first five days and the only discomfort I experienced was bone pain all over (due to the arsenic attacking the leukaemic cells). Three weeks later I was back in remission !!

I followed this treatment with another round of ATO which consisted of one dose each day for the first week followed by twice a week for three weeks. Each session lasted around three hours.

The next course of treatment was collecting my own stem cells (known as an autologous transplant).

I had to give myself three GCSF injections (growth factor) per day for four days to stimulate my bone marrow to produce loads of stems cells that then overflowed into my bloodstream ready for collection. The harvesting of my cells was a painless procedure and they managed to collect enough stem cells ready for the next part.

I will be going back into Barts Hospital next week for high dose chemotherapy which kills all the cells in my bone marrow, then I will have my own harvested stem cells put back into me via a drip. All being well that will be the end of it. I am a positive person and know that the next couple of months will be tough but like anything if you hit this head on and remain as happy as you can you can all beat this. My favourite record which is my mobile phone ring tone is "happy" by Pharrell Williams which I hear each day brings a smile to my face ! Is'nt funny how the simple things in life give you the most pleasure.

The consultants and nursing staff at Barts have been tremendous. There has been so much negativity recently in the press and media regarding the NHS - if it wasn't for the NHS I would not be here to write this. Thank you NHS." 

I'll be updating my journey in the blog section