Michelle S
Posted by

I'm A Childhood Leukaemia Survivor

Michelle S
Posted by
06 Aug 2014

Hi, my name is Michelle and I am a childhood cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 1982 at the age of two and treated at the Birmingham Children's hospital. Being so young my parents could probably write a better account of it all than me but I'll try to give you an insight into what I remember.

My earliest memories are in hospital, which is where I spent most of my time between the ages of 2 and 5yrs. I remember Dr Hill and some lovely nurses who I've since forgotten the names of, and a few patients who were treated at the same time as me but who sadly didn't make it.  I remember some lovely ladies who made me teddy bears, that I still own to this day (and I think they had to go into quarantine at one point), the plastic wiggly snakes I was given by nurses for being good when I had my blood tests and I remember swinging back and forth on the hospital's hobby horse.  I also have very vivid memories of the pilgrimages my parents took me on in Lourdes France, when they were at the end of their tether and looking for a miracle, maybe: collecting pinecones in the woods, being bathed in holy water and a lovely man playing the guitar and serenading me with the well known Beatles song Michelle My Belle. And when my hair fell out (what little I had at this age), I just wore a pair of red tights on my head, obviously!

The tough years for me were the following teenage years after being given the all clear in 1988. My growth was stunted by chemotherapy and I put on weight whilst being given steroids, not a good look to children at school who sadly didn't understand. I also started a course of growth hormone in my early teens and this played havoc with my own teenage hormones, it helped me to grow half an inch and lose a few friends along the way.  But I will always remember the support I had from the friends who stuck by me and my amazing family, I don't know where I'd be without them!

I'm 34 now and have a BA Honours Fine Art degree under my belt and in my first year at University I met my lovely boyfriend, now husband of 5 years.  I have also been a volunteer with the Leicester & Rutland branch of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research for over 4 years now with whom I've helped to raise money doing art exhibitions and craft stalls and in which my husband has supported me in any way possible. Our branch has raised over £650,000 since it began and the people I have met along the way are fantastic.

I feel lucky every day and I am so glad that I'm giving something back to LLR, a fabulous charity that I'm sure I wouldn't be here without.

 

Comments

07.08.2014

Brilliant blog, Michelle!

It's great to hear that you're doing so well and enjoying life after all the post-treatment complications which a lot of the time get overlooked and are an area we as a charity are looking to draw more attention to during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. I, too, had leukaemia when I was younger (CML) and had a bone marrow transplant which went remarkably well with few complications until recently when I discovered I have a lung condition as a result of the chemo and transplant process.

Thank you, too, for all your hard work with the Leicester and Rutland Branch - they're a fantastic bunch who've done so much for us as a charity and without the support of our local branches we wouldn't be able to do half the work that we do at the very least and they wouldn't have made the breakthroughs in treatment that are the reason that you and I are both here today.

Not sure if you're aware of this/have done this already but we are currently running our biggest ever survey as part of our Prioritising Patient Need programme which is looking to identify the areas of greatest of need for patients which we can then look to address. Would you be interested in taking part? Here's the link if you're interested:

http://leukaemialymphomaresearch.org.uk/patient-survey

Thanks again for the blog and all the best in the future - together we will beat blood cancer! 

Anonymous
07.08.2014

Thanks for your reply Andy, I'm glad that I've finally shared my story after such a tough time. I hope your lung condition doesn't get in the way too much! I caught many illnesses during chemo including pneumonia, listeria and shingles so I really am very lucky.

I really enjoy the work I do with my branch and it's true, they are a fantastic bunch! And they've helped me to understand so much about what I've been through.

I took part in the survey you shared, thanks for that, I hope my answers help others.

Thanks again,
Michelle.