“I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in December 2008, aged 27 when I was 22 weeks pregnant. I had gone to the GP complaining of feeling anaemic and had had blood tests taken that showed all my blood counts were low. I was admitted to my local hospital (Colchester General) to have a bone marrow biopsy that confirmed that I had leukaemia.
The following day I was whisked off to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, over an hour's drive away, leaving my 17 month old son for the first time. I started the first intensive chemotherapy cycle immediately as an inpatient. During this period my unborn baby was regularly scanned and monitored because the doctors were unsure how the drugs would affect her.
With the first month of chemotherapy finished, I was given the double good news that I was in remission and my team of doctors decided to carry on with the second cycle of chemotherapy as my baby was growing well. I continued with the second month of intensive chemo but after the cycle finished, I got a Hickman line infection and my platelet count kept dropping - a pregnancy related condition.
In the end, I got to nearly 36 weeks pregnant, a stage when the baby is nearly fully formed. I was then induced and after a very fast 23 minute labour, I gave birth to a healthy little girl called Phoebe.
She stayed in hospital with me for a week before going home to my partner and son, while I stayed on in hospital to carry on treatment. It was obviously incredibly hard to be separated from my new-born baby.
I eventually got to have the rest of my chemotherapy and radiotherapy as an outpatient and finished all treatment in December 2010. I initially returned to work as a nurse one day a week for the short-term whilst I recovered from two years of treatment.
Even after treatment finished, it was still a big part of my life. My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be around to bring up my children and if there was anything that could be done to ease that fear, it would be priceless.
Five years on from my diagnosis, I am thankful to be celebrating Christmas with my family. Those two years have completely changed my outlook on life. I've seen first-hand what it's like to be the patient rather than the nurse and I think this will only improve the care I will be able to give to my patients.
This is a disease that affects people of all ages from all backgrounds. It affects every aspect of your life as well as that of your family. The treatment is incredibly hard on you physically and mentally and patients need so much support.”