Claire Clarkson
Posted by

So this is me

Claire Clarkson
Posted by
25 Apr 2015

Where do I start?

I wasn't ill.  That's something I can never understand.  When you think of people with cancer you think of these sickly looking, gaunt figures with no hair; pale & ill.  Obviously this isn't how they look when they are diagnosed but I wouldn't know that, I've never dealt with this stuff before!  But I was healthy; I have issues with my back which caused me pain on a daily basis, but that's normal for me.  There wasn't anything new really, I had a pain in my leg but I put that down to my back.  

I went to the doctors about the leg pain. I get told to get any new pain checked, I normally don't so I was being good.  The doctor wanted bloods done to check for markers of arthritis, something I have been checked for in the past, but it's been a while so he decided to re-check.  That's what saved my life.  One doctor. One test.  Normally I get told to take my pain med's & rest, it's always put down to my damned back, but not his time. He wanted to be sure, he saved my life.

the bloods showed abnormalities; high white cells & low platelets.  I got a call the evening of the test, a doctor asking my to come in to hospital to have the test redone to double check it wasn't a mistake.  Arriving at the hospital & being guided to oncology scared the life out of me! I had so many thoughts going through my head! I was so scared I was going to die (dramatic yes, but I had gone from putting my kids to bed, picking up the toys in the living room to being sent to a cancer ward within an hour!).  The doctor met me on the ward, sat down & explained he had been sent a very small sample of my blood, my name and my hospital number.  He didn't know my history, he just had this one drop of blood & the piece of paper showing the abnormality.  He wanted to be extra sure the results were right, hence the trip to see him.  They got me settled, took my blood, sent my hubby home & left me to it for the night.  I cried.  A lot.  I was terrified I would never see my children grow up, hold my grandchildren, grow old with the man I love with all my heart.  

They came back the next morning confirming the test results, telling me it could be any number of things; an infection, a million illnesses, even a pregnancy; but all I could think was CANCER!  They wanted to take some bone marrow to run more tests.  My sister came in to hold my hand during the procedure & my god! It hurt! 

Anyway they asked my hubby to come back a few hours later & we sat down with the doc & he explained I have acute promyelocytic leukemia.  After that I pretty much heard nothing.  My hubby is all about the facts, how things work etc so he wanted details, statistics; I wanted them all to piss off so I could scream! I wanted to run away, hide somewhere & pretend this wasn't happening to me! I wanted to go home, curl up in my big bed with my kids & watch something Disney. But I couldnt. They wanted to start treatment right away, and they did. That night I started taking the ATRA. The next morning they added the arsenic along with a whole pile of other crap - steroid that made me swell to twice the normal size within a month (but gave me great nails) anti sickness that gave me a headache, pain med's that made me feel sick, oh & a hormone to stop my periods (sorry boys facts is facts) because they didn't want to risk, and I quote, me "bleeding out"! Yes doc that's not too scary at all! 

So anyway I'm 9 months down the line. It's been tough, especially when I broke my foot which left me completely useless for 6 weeks as I was too tired & weak to use the crutches for long so I spent most of the time sat in my room; my hubby would bring me a pack up & a flask of tea before leaving for work, it was easier than being downstairs & having to try & get up to the loo, I could get myself up but not my crutches!  I have had 4 rounds of treatment, each with a bone marrow aspiration in between.  I go for another bone marrow aspiration on Monday then start the last round of my treatment the following week.

One of the nurses asked me a week or so ago how long I had left, when I asked why she said she thought I must be coming to the end because I'm getting grumpy! She right. I'm normally very tolerant, but towards the end of my last round and heading towards this next one I'm fed up.  I'm sick of being poked and prodded, of being stuck with needles (I had a picc line but it got pulled when I was on crutches so had to be removed, I have crap veins so being cannulate twice a week sucks) and I'm Sick to death of people asking me how I am! Wow I am grumpy!

Im so glad it's all nearly over with! I can't wait to start uni in September, I've bought a ton of books, a car & a pencil case



Claire thank you so much for getting in touch and sharing your story and being so open and honest about your experiences.

I remember the anxious wait at diagnosis only too well and had a similar situation where I had to wait around while they doube and treble checked before breaking the news.

I was fortunate enough to have very good veins but I know a lot of people that struggled with canulars which wasn't fun.

I hope the treatment's going well and wish you all the best going forwards. It's great that you have uni to look forward to - what are you going to be studying?