I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in November 2011 aged 24. Despite a few months of not having felt quite right, the diagnosis still came completely out of the blue. I underwent 8 months of intensive chemotherapy which left me physically shattered, but successfully put the disease into remission. In July 2012 I moved on to a much gentler maintenance treatment regime entailing daily chemo tablets, monthly infusions and the odd injection.
I'm still on this regime at the time of writing and, if everything goes to plan, will finish in March 2015. Whilst there have been ups and downs during the maintenance phase - I still get tired more easily and have been more prone than usual to bugs and colds - the side effects are largely manageable and I'd say that a lot of the time now I feel 90% like my old self. I'm able to go running and play sport, and I'm back to working full time - at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, no less - which I'm thoroughly enjoying.
I've thought long and hard about blogging about my illness - how much detail should I go into, when's the right time to share, does anyone actually want to read this? I'm not one of those people who finds it easy to share every aspect of my life online, especially something so personal. And to be honest, in the early stages in particular I did sometimes find coping really difficult, so the idea of other patients being disheartened by reading about my negative experiences is one that I struggled with.
But as I've always found with writing, it helps me to unpack my thoughts and make sense of things, so it may just do the same for others too. If reading about my journey can help someone going through a similar experience, even if it's just by knowing that they're not alone in finding things difficult at times, then I'll be delighted. And whilst I was hugely unlucky to be struck by blood cancer in the first place, it's important to remember that I'm fortunate enough to still be here over 2 years on from diagnosis and doing relatively well - if that can offer encouragement to a fellow patient then it's only right to do so.
I have touched on certain aspects of being a blood cancer patient in the course of writing about my work with the Sports Events team at LLR, but the charity's new online patient support section provides the ideal platform to go into more detail, and its launch has been the final kick up the backside I needed to get this blog off the ground! Over the course of a few instalments I aim to write about the weeks leading up to my diagnosis, my initial reaction and my experiences with the first stages of treatment, and how I'm doing on maintenance and (all being well) beyond.
I hope it proves helpful to anyone who's been or is going through blood cancer, and may be of particular interest to anyone under 25 being treated for ALL. Please do post any comments or questions below and I look forward to getting the next post out soon!