Helen was diagnosed with myeloma in 2005 at the age of 57.
“New Year's Eve 2004 will be a day I shall never forget. Late afternoon my GP rang me to tell me I had some problems with a blood test result. It was a Friday that year, so nothing would be happening until the following Tuesday.
I had insisted on having a blood test and seeing another GP earlier in the month, as I had been told previously that my constant exhaustion was 'my age'!
The next stage happened all very quickly - bone marrow biopsy, more blood tests and then the official diagnosis that it was multiple myeloma. I had never heard of it and when the immediate shock wore off I was frantically looking up on the internet to try and learn more about this form of cancer.
I was monitored on a three-monthly basis to start with and carried on working. Thankfully I worked in an office in the house of my employer, so I was sheltered from infections. Eventually in the summer of 2007 my paraprotein level reached an unacceptable level.
The treatment was to start. I thought nothing of taking a 'few pills' each day!! Little did I know, I unfortunately reacted to the thalidomide and the mixture of the steroids and chemotherapy.
Life suddenly changed, I managed to keep working with the help of friends and family driving me on the days I couldn't manage to drive myself and with a very considerate employer. I worked up to the end of the year before I had my stem cell transplant.
The date had been booked for early January and despite suffering from chest infections and having to avoid anyone with flu etc. I made it into hospital. It was not the most pleasant of treatments to have to go through, but I made it, and came home after three weeks.
My next target was to get back to work in less than three months! I did make it back and went from strength to strength. I carried on working until I retired three years ago. Since then we have moved house and thrown ourselves into a very active social life, travelled through Europe, although the South of France is still my favourite place.
I am still monitored every six weeks and since last summer my paraprotein level has started rise again, but thankfully slowly, so I am still doing as much at the moment as before and planning two holidays in France. The only difference is I am starting to feel rather tired by the end of the day again, but, as everyone tells me - it isn't surprising considering what I do! My motto is 'keep calm and carry on' - business as usual.
There is now so much information available through such sources as Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and support groups. I have been very lucky so far, in that I was diagnosed before I suffered any bone pain. Never give up!”