My story

29 Dec 2015

Christmas is always a time to count ones blessings and appreciate life but this year was all the more significant for me.

This time 20 years ago after a number of failed sessions of chemotherapy I was in remission from Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia (APL) for the first time. I finally got to go home for the day on Christmas day after having spent every day since the end of August on the Haematology ward at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. The visit home was brief as I returned to my room on the ward for further treatments but something only a few weeks before I thought may never happen and was truly appreciative of.

It had all started about 8 months earlier, I was in my final year at university in Leicester and was feeling constantly tired but assumed it was the late nights working on my dissertation and revising for exams. I did go to the University DRs though and had my bloods tested and nothing was found, I was told months later once diagnosed my results from then had been mixed up in someway as I would have already been ill at this point.

I finished at University and came back home but was feeling worse but couldn't get an appointment at my local DRs until my papers came from Leicester. I was working but really struggling, eventually I woke up one morning and noticed huge bruises on my legs so went to the DRs and made them see me, I was immediately sent to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, various tests were done but I wasn’t told anything. It was Friday teatime and by this point and most of the staff were leaving, I asked to leave and if I could come back in a few weeks as I was due to go on holiday with some friends but was told I had a bed on a ward. At this point I should have registered that things were serious but I was young, naïve, exhausted and run down so my brain didn't really process what was going on. 

The next morning another patient got chatting to me and asked what type of blood cancer I had, what a way to find out! As it was a Saturday the DRs and consultants weren't working and the nurses couldn't confirm anything as they had to wait for the consultant to look at my results. So for what felt the longest 2 days of my life I waited to hear. On the Monday DR Kelsey came to see me and told me I had Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia. He told me it was highly aggressive and that I had to start chemotherapy that day. I felt simultaneously angry, sick, numb, exhausted and confused. I had never before or have never since felt such a range of emotions all at once.

I had the first course of chemotherapy and it didn't have any effect, neither did the second and there were at least a couple of occasions I wasn't expected to get through the night. I don't know how but I survived I and was put on a new 24-hour chemotherapy treatment for 10 days. The chemotherapy worked but I got down to 6 stone, caught MRSA and was on morphine at nights. After that I had further consolidation treatments as an inpatient. Then after a few months recovery I was able to slowly get back on with my life.

Without research the chemotherapy that worked for me wouldn't have existed, in the time that has elapsed since then treatments have progress significantly to less intensive chemotherapy combined with alltrans retinoic acid (ATRA).  However whilst I never forget how lucky I am to still be here there are those not so fortunate, from 20 years ago Sam a teenager so full of life that lost her fight with blood cancer only months after we became friends tragically leaving behind a young son through to the current day and my friend James’s brave sister Lorraine who sadly passed away last month after fighting for so long with such dignity. In their memory and honour we must keep on raising awareness and funds to support research that gets us closer to beating blood cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

04.01.2016

Thanks so much for sharing your story Steve, and for all that you do to raise awareness and funds, and support research to beat blood cancer. 

06.01.2016

Steve thank you so much for sharing your experiences so openly!

I was aware that you had had blood cancer but had never heard about your experiences before. That wait must have been crazy and all sorts of thoughts must have been racing through your head over those two days which must have seemed like years.

What you've gone on to do to help others since getting in to remission is nothing short of incredible. You're an incredible ambassador for the charity and it's because of people like you that other patients like me are still here today.

I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and wish you all the best for the year ahead - here's to us all making huge strides in the battle against blood cancer in 2016!