Sissy Bridge
Posted by

Reflections on childhood leukaemia

Sissy Bridge
Posted by
17 Feb 2017

A reflection on my experiences of ALL and how different treatment is today thanks to research

I was just 3 years old when diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 1996 when the treatment was very different to how it is now.

Now you don’t have to spend months on end in hospital, and you can continue to live as normal a life as possible. Usually a week in hospital at the beginning and then the rest of the treatment as a day out-patient.

It means life can often continue, going to school, having friends.

However I had to spend months at a time living in the Royal Free Hospital, level six children's ward in an isolation room (I still remember the room very clearly). I can remember being very upset about not being able to leave my room to go to the playroom, and when I was allowed there (on special occasions) even more upset that I was always attached to a drip meaning I couldn't go in the Wendy house, which was my favourite.

Research has really made the difference in this respect as now there is a much better understanding of the biology of the disease. 20 years ago probably every child was over treated, now the treatment is personalised, gentler and has fewer side effects. With this better understanding comes more support and an improved health care environment.

Memories of treatment

I was a naughty patient and refused to take anything orally and on one occasion I even pulled out my Hickman line!

I also remember wanting my hair to grow back pink, I’d chosen these wigs to wear when I lost my hair.

I had a little nurse’s uniform that I used to wear and the nurses made me a badge which said “Senior Staff Nurse Bridge “on it and the kindness and thoughtfulness of the nurses who helped me though my treatment really inspired me. They were all so kind. It seemed like it was all about me, but when I look back from a nurse’s perspective I can see that actually it was all about the family and we still have close friendships with the doctors and nurses that helped us through those tough times, especially Nick Goulden and Kat. 

The rules were strict - no fresh fruit everything had to be cooked. My favourite foods were tomatoes on toast and brown hoola hoops- and strangely they still are today!

Life after treatment

I am fit and healthy now but at some levels I still feel different from my friends. They are quite willing to take risks and be daring but for me I’m just grateful for being here. My life’s already been too risky and I don’t want to go there again!

My family matters to me most of all after all that we have been through we are super close. I also trained as a children’s nurse, partly inspired by an addiction to casualty, I have to admit, but mainly because the nurses who looked after me so inspired me and were so important to making some happy times and they were just so kind.

I still get emotional when I see parents going to meet the doctor to find out for the first time that their child has leukaemia, because I know what lies ahead for them and although it’s so much better these days, it’s a very sad and frightening time and not everyone is as lucky as me.

Research is essential making sure we beat blood cancer and I'm determined to play my part. I joined the charity in 2004 when my next door neighbour Alistair Campbell ran the London Marathon and have since continued to support and raise money and awareness for Bloodwise. In April I'm actually running the London Marathon myself!