Lewis C
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My Mum's story

Lewis C
Posted by
17 Dec 2013

Lewis' mum tells the story of when she was told she had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia...

In June last year, and just before the summer holidays, I felt a little tired compared to what I would normally feel after doing my regular lunchtime circuits. So after some good advice from my husband, (well…he calls it advice, we women would call it nagging!) I decided to book an appointment with the Doctor.

After a quick trip to the doctors, the very next day my world was torn apart as the Doctor confirmed that I had blast cells in my blood system, a sign of leukaemia. Over the next couple of days and after a whirlwind of appointments at the hospital in Mons (Belgium), it was confirmed that I had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). I was gutted as I was about to depart in two days’ time to cycle from John O'Groats to Land’s End. I hadn't really grasped the seriousness at this stage.

When someone tells you that you have cancer it seems like you are in a dream. "No way, this can't be happening to me", I thought.  After some research on the internet it suddenly dawned on me that this was serious, and it scared the living daylights out of me.  I wasn't able to sleep properly for days. Our initial thoughts were what, and how, we were going to tell our two boys, especially our youngest, Oliver who was only 8 at the time. He was so brave and I was really proud of him trying to hold on to his tears as he tried to make sense of what we were telling him. Lewis was a little older and realised the serious implications of this illness, only this time it was myself and my husband who were fighting back the tears as we had to tell him over the phone. We had to put on a brave face and be positive - telling your family that you have cancer is never a pleasant experience.

By supporting LLR you will be making a real difference to real lives. With all of your support and donations you will be giving many people, from all walks of life, another opportunity to live life to its fullest. I think that is the biggest gift that anyone can give.


Over the next six months I was subjected to all types of uncomfortable treatments, ending with massive doses of chemotherapy. Sadly at the end of it I was given more bad news - the chemotherapy wasn’t effective and the only option was to undergo a bone marrow transplant.

I was eventually let out of hospital at 4pm on Christmas Eve. Although we as a family opened our presents as usual on Christmas morning, it was fair to say it didn't really feel like Christmas as I was so ill from the chemotherapy. We decided to delay our Christmas dinner for a few days, giving me a little time to recover. We tried our best again a few days later and we had a few laughs, but unfortunately that Christmas will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Thankfully in the New Year came some good news. I was offered the opportunity to take part in a brand new trial drug called Blinatumomab and although there were no guarantees and some additional risks, we thought there was little to lose.

Blinatumomab is a form of anti-cancer drug delivered by a drip 24 hours a day, for six weeks at a time. The good thing about the trial drug is it gave me another outside chance. If it worked it would buy me more time to hopefully find a bone marrow donor, and without the trial it is more than likely that I wouldn't be here today.

Relief came when my doctor told me he’d found a donor. Although it frightened me initially (after the doctor explained the process), it allowed me to sleep a little better at night. I had been given a life line that many others before me hadn't.

I spent six weeks in hospital in Brussels in isolation, and after the bone marrow transplant process I initially showed some progress and was allowed home. Unfortunately whilst at home, I continued to lose weight, was continually being sick and had zero energy. I couldn't even make myself a cup of tea and on occasion found it difficult to get to the toilet without help. Thankfully, my husband is in the Army and they have been really supportive in allowing him to take time off to care for me. We are very thankful to them.

At the 100 day point after the bone marrow transplant I had a bone marrow test to see if my new bone marrow was doing what it was supposed to do - that is to attack the cancer cells. It hadn't worked. I couldn't believe my ears. I heard myself saying "no not again"...   My mind went into overdrive and could not take in any information from the doctor. Once again I was faced with telling our two boys and immediate family that it hadn't worked. It was worse than on the first occasion and there were many, many more tears. Even my husband Joe, who is an absolute rock and incredibly positive, found it hard to hide his emotions.

The doctor referred me back to the hospital in Mons to undergo yet more chemotherapy to prepare me for the next step. Being in hospital and at home so often has given me plenty of time to reflect. I consider myself as being lucky as I'm still here and still fighting. I realised that if it wasn't for the trial Blinatumomab, I may not get another Christmas with my boys.

So that is where all you, the general public and dear friends can help. The help and support and donations that you give will be going directly to the very people who funded my trial, the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. They gave me a second chance and without donations from the public and people like you, trials like Blinatumomab would not be funded and people like me would not be given a second chance.

Lewis has set up a fundraising page site as he also wanted to say thank you to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. He is attempting to break a world record with current and past Olympic swimmers, and in doing so, wanted to raise awareness and support for the charity. Few blood cancer patients are given the opportunity to take part in trials with new drugs, so I was lucky. Like I said earlier, if it wasn’t for the charity it is likely that I wouldn't have made the bone marrow transplant stage and that means so much to me and my family; somebody you don't know who has given you a second chance at life.

By supporting LLR you will be making a real difference to real lives. With all of your support and donations you will be giving many people, from all walks of life, another opportunity to live life to its fullest. I think that is the biggest gift that anyone can give.

So from me, my two boys and husband, I’d like to say a massive thank you for taking the time to read my story so far. All being well, I hope to see you at the event in February.



Lewis gathered some of the country's finest swimmers and his family together and beat the world record on Saturday 1st February. Read about the event here.

The Coleman family: Oliver, Mags, Joe and Lewis, at Swim 4 Leukaemia. (Photograph by Andy Chubb.) 



Thank you Maggie for such an inspirational story. You must be so proud of Lewis and his fundraising and of course Oliver and Joe for their continued strength. A united family on a very difficult journey! I wish you and your family continued strength and that your treatment turns a corner and leaves you feeling fit and well again x