Michelle S
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Steroids and Growth Hormones

Michelle S
Posted by
29 Aug 2014

How they affected me personally.

It’s Childhood Cancer Awareness month this September and as someone who went through treatment as a child, I would like to share some of the impacts it had on me personally, such as the growth hormones and steroids which were part and parcel for me.  

Treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia works better when you take steroids with chemotherapy drugs but can cause you to have an increased appetite, risk of infection and mood swings. I certainly had my fair share of infections during treatment; including listeria, salmonella and a bought of pneumonia when we were on a family holiday in Greece.  I was diagnosed when I was two years old, too young to remember the mood swings, but I've seen photos of how chubby I got - chubby babies are the best though, right?

At the age of 13 I started a course of growth hormones. My height was stunted by chemotherapy from 5ft7” (according to growth charts made up by my doctor) to 4ft11”, and my parents looked into hormones to see if I could at least reach 5ft, which I did.  This treatment included having injections to block my periods (which started very early for me) and then daily injections of hormones which I learnt to administer myself. I owned a little blue plastic briefcase of equipment and a tiny sharps box which I remember taking abroad with me. All of this obviously impacted on my own teenage hormones too, mood swings became a normal thing and friends didn’t know how to deal with me, but luckily a select few teachers were amazing in their support and I will never forget that.  

Since then I have wished that I hadn’t lost inches in height but I remind myself that I’m extremely lucky to be alive. I can’t believe how much I went through sometimes and how my family and I dealt with it all, but you do don't you? You fight on.

The research into side effects of chemotherapy and alternative and less aggressive forms of treatment is astounding, and so much has been achieved since the 80s and 90s when I was treated. I visited the Birmingham University Centre of Excellence with my branch of LLR (I've been volunteering with the Leicester and Rutland Branch since 2010) and it was so great to look behind the scenes and to see what the money we raise is helping to fund - and this research is why we will beat blood cancer!

 

Find out how you can help support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Comments

25.09.2014

Hi MIchelle,

Thank you so much for so openly sharing your experiences with blood cancer for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

As you say we've come such a long way in the treatment of childhood blood cancer and survival rates have improved enormously, especially in recent years, as treatments have continued to improve with the increase in understanding of how blood cancers operate. 

However, as your experiences reveal there is still a lot that needs to be done in regards to improving the toxicity of treatments and the secondary side-effects of blood cancer both physical and mental are often overlooked. Having recently been diagnosed with a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis linked to my bone marrow transplant this is a topic that I, too, am very passionate about.

So, thanks for sharing and everything you're doing as a volunteer to help us beat blood cancer.