Last year on Thursday 20th June I was told that I had cancer. The cancer I was diagnosed with was a type of Leukaemia, known as Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia. At 20 years old, the 'Big C' word, surprisingly, wasn't one that really shocked me... or so I thought. I'd lost my Grandad to the disease in 2006 and then my Granny the following year also to cancer. It was just something that I had begun to accept was eventually going to take everyone I loved away from me. Then I was told I had it... my first thought? I'm not going to see my 21st birthday in December, it's going to kill me like it did my Grandparents.
I'd been trundling round the house, feeling a bit rubbish thinking I had a bad dose of tonsillitis. I'd been back and forth to the doctor like a yo yo, but nothing was improving. On the Thursday morning my Dad was upstairs in his study, I was downstairs in the kitchen with my head over a bin spitting up blood, (obviously making a horrendous noise, as when my Dad appeared in the doorway after hearing me down the baby alarm, he said, "What ARE you doing?! You sound like you're trying to give birth down here!" The usual sarcastic tone coming through in his voice as always, haha!) After he had examined the contents of the bin and pulled a few comical faces, he decided that it was probably a good idea to go back to the doctors.
We arrived at the doctors and after waiting around a while before seeing someone, I was referred to A and E in Brighton. When we got there we waited around for a bit until I saw an ear, nose and throat specialist, who was really nice until she started wiggling a tubey camera up my nose and down the back of my throat... while my Dad sat next to me, stifling his laughter at my grimacing facial expressions and watering eyes. Thanks Dad! Haha! In the end the specialist said she couldn't see anything that would be causing me to feel so unwell, so she took some bloods and sent them off... and then the waiting game began.
It was soon the afternoon when she popped her head back round the curtain to see how I was doing. I'd just been begging Dad to take me home, saying I was tired and we could just come back later. I looked up at her and it only took me a second to clock on from her expression that something was wrong.
"They've found some abnormalities with your bloods."
"Is it really bad?"
"It might be... there are people coming down to talk to you."
I immediately looked at my Dad who was sitting by my bed, holding onto the railings in silence, he looked at me and said not to think the worst, it might not be all bad. Then a couple of doctors came in. They explained that they thought I had Leukaemia, a cancer of the blood, but they'd need to take a bone marrow sample to confirm the specific type... after that everything just blurred into one. I remember being hysterical and all I could do was cover my face, bring my knees up to my chest and cry. My Dad was silent next to me, his hands were holding on tightly now to the railings on my bed. I can't remember the last time I saw my Dad cry, but in that moment when I turned to look at him for a reassuring, 'everything will be okay' comment, he didn't say anything, he just looked back at me with tears rolling down his face and then hugged me. If there was ever a moment I wanted the world to swallow me up... it was then. The doctor asked if we had any questions, but I had none. Dad managed to ask if it would affect my triplet brothers before his voice broke and his eyes glossed over again with tears. They said it wouldn't, as that wasn't the way this Leukaemia worked. Thank goodness.
I was then wheeled off on my bed to have a brain scan and other things. I honestly can't remember what else happened that day. My first month or so in hospital was a complete blur, I had a bone marrow biopsy done as soon as I was admitted so the doctors could confirm the diagnosis and I had lots of blood and platelets pumped into me. I was also introduced to lots of nurses during my stay on the Haematology Ward in Brighton, who are all wonderful people. There have been a lot of negative reports over the years about the NHS care in hospitals, but for me, the group of nurses I met were and are a credit to the hospital and the ward. They always came in with a smiley face and were just really lovely people, I honestly couldn't have asked for a better bunch!
Since June I've been in and out of hospital whilst having 4 courses of chemotherapy, 3 lots of Idarubicin and 1 lot of Mitoxantrone, (the latter I have to thank for my hair falling out.) I've become acquainted with many needles, a cocktail of drugs a dealer would be jealous of and daily visits from my wonderfully supportive family, (including my slightly older triplet
brother, who found it amusing to play with my bed remote in an attempt to fold me in half.) Not to mention everybody else's blood that is now nicely swimming around my body.
At the end of October last year I was told that I was definitely in remission and that my bloods were pretty much back to normal. I have to be monitored for the next three years, which involves having a bone marrow biopsy done every three months as that is the quickest way to catch the Leukaemia early if it comes back.
I am alive thanks to so many people and that is something I shall never take for granted.