In October 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy and breezed through it. I thought that was it; that my unfortunate meeting with cancer was over. I got my life back together and carried on. I did have one of those 'epiphany' moments as I remember....I had this 'well, I really need to get my life sorted' sort of feeling...and I went out and promptly got two tattoos and resumed my dancing, which I had done since I was about 20, but which had stopped because 'life' sort of took over, as it always does! Then I simply carried on with my life as before.
Unfortunately it wasn't as easy as that. In May 2012 I had been feeling very tired and for some strange reason very emotional. Every problem seemed to make me cry. But I wasn't unduly worried. I was in good health for my age (52) and was never at the doctors. I ate a healthy diet and took regular exercise. So I put it down to a phase...perhaps this was what happened at a 'certain age.' My body, however, had other ideas. After coming out in spots that looked suspiciously like chicken pox, and getting a shiner of a bruise around my eye, I went to the doctors. A routine blood test confirmed Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. My white blood cell count was off the chart. In the space of a few hours, which just gave me time to say a hasty goodbye to the kids and pack a few things, I was put in an ambulance and rushed with lights blazing and sirens going, to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London. This was my home, on and off, for the next four months.
I had four cycles of intensive chemotherapy, each cycle bashing away at my immune system, until there were no cancer cells left. I lost my hair, although this never bothered me at all. The strange thing was that, although the consultant had told me I would have died within a week if I hadn't got to hospital when I did, I never once thought I wouldn't make it.
My treatment completed in August 2012 I was ready to start life again. I went back to work, my hair grew back (albeit curly!) and life seemed normal.Then in March 2013 the familiar tiredness set in and I was having trouble breathing. I thought this was because I had caught the flu virus over the winter months and assumed I would recover after a bit of rest. Not quite. A blood test revealed my Hb level was 4.8 and all my counts had gone down. A bone marrow test confirmed the worst. The leukaemia was back.
I spent a further five months in hospital having further chemotherapy and was told I would need a stem cell transplant. Not having any siblings, the doctors checked the donor register. Amazingly, there were two matches for me and both were 10/10 matches. My transplant was in July 2013. At the moment I count myself as a 'work in progress.' I am still recovering, but getting stronger every day. An amazing person has given me the chance to start again and I intend to cherish the journey. I have been one of the lucky ones.