Thursday 28th March 2019 I was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia.
That morning I woke up at 0530hrs to go to work as normal but decided something wasn’t right and that I needed to go to A&E.
Back track about two weeks before hand I had started developing random bruises over my body. They didn’t really hurt but they were purple and looked quite nasty. I thought these were from work and my job role can be quite physical but I would wake up in the morning with new bruises in random places like my inner leg or inside on my arm. All I had done was slept through the night. I knew I could sometimes bruise easily but I had never experienced something like this.
On the Sunday/Monday before my diagnosis I developed a sore throat and mouth ulcers, which were more like blood blisters. These could be painful and again there was no obvious reason for developing them.
I had been suffering with some other bleeding which I had been referred to the Gynaecologist for. But my referral wasn’t until May and all these symptoms together made me worry.
On the evening of Wednesday 27th March 2019 I googled my symptoms, the sore throat, the mouth ulcers and the random bruising. Now I know they say not to Google your symptoms but like I said before it was all too much of a coincidence. I had a gut feeling that this was something more than just a sore throat and a few bruises.
So I typed my symptoms into the NHS website. It came up with three possible options. Two of them, which the website said was least likely, was diabetes and anaemia. The other one said it was roughly 80% likely I had Leukaemia. I didn’t jump straight to conclusions at this point because apart from a sore throat and a few mouth ulcers I felt fine. I had been to work the day before, my appetite was fine, and I was fine as far I was aware. Plus the internet always says you’re dying if you type in the most minor of symptoms. Still I was a little worried.
That morning I went to A&E I had a huge mouth ulcer, probably the size of a 20p coin, on the left side of my mouth and it did hurt along with the bruises and sore throat. I messaged my sergeant and my friend, Kerry, on my team stating that I wouldn’t be in and asking how to call in sick as I hadn’t had to before. My sergeant at the time, Steve, was really supportive and asked me to call him to get more information.
My boyfriend at the time, Jack, said he would take me to A&E but had to go to work. I got to A&E around 0600hrs. By this time I had called my parents, who live in Basingstoke asking if they could come and meet me. I was perfectly capable of making my way through the hospital but again I had a gut feeling something was wrong and I wanted someone to be with me, mainly because I knew I would have to have needles stuck in me and this is one of my main phobias.
I called Steve and he passed me onto Kerry as it was easier to explain everything to her. They asked if I was with anyone and I said no because Jack had gone to work and my parents were making their way down from Basingstoke. Steve said he would make his way down with Kerry and they got there not long afterwards.
My mum had called Laura, my older sister, who was going to work that morning. I did initially think of calling her but I didn’t want to disturb her as I knew she was always busy at work and I didn’t want to cause her any hassle. Laura arrived shortly after Steve and Kerry. By this point I had had my bloods taken and was waiting in A&E for a doctor to see me. Steve and Kerry waited for my parents to arrive and then left once they were happy I was in capable hands. Steve and Kerry both said to keep them updated which I did. I was taken to a bed in A&E and my parents and Laura followed. The doctor stated I had low blood counts and they were getting the haematologist to take a look at the results. A doctor, Dr Edmund Watson (Dr Ed for short) came down and stated very simply I was lacking certain blood products in my blood such as platelets, haemoglobin and white blood cells. So, again very simply, my immune system wasn’t working very well. Now that I think about it this would have put me in a very dangerous situation. Especially with the job I do. I encounter people with knives and all different types of diseases. If I had been stabbed or caught something off someone, I would have been in big trouble.
One of the doctors, who would eventually become my consultant, Dr Philpot, also came to visit me and gave me a list of options of what the blood results could mean but they would need to do a few more tests and keep me in for at least the next 24 hours until they got the results back. She stated in the list of options it could be leukaemia. This wasn’t too much of a shock but so much had already happened within the space of a few hours that I began to cry as I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I thought at most I would be given a few antibiotics and have a few days off work. Not have my life completely turned upside down in the space of a few hours.
But it wasn’t a confirmed diagnosis. Still the doctors took me for more tests including a standard chest x-ray and urine sample. My dad called my brother Scott and Jack saying they should probably get down to the hospital because things weren’t looking great and I had been told I was going to be admitted.
After the chest x-ray and urine sample Dr Ed took me to a small room in the Eden Day Unit, the unit for patients receiving chemo and other treatments. I remember walking in there and seeing patients hooked up to IV drips sitting in chairs. Some had head coverings and looked very ill. I knew it wasn’t a place I wanted to be. I remember saying to Laura that all those patients sitting in those chairs were getting chemo. My parents had gone to get a drink and take a break whilst Laura stayed with me. Beofre I could even start to process what I had already been through Dr Ed said he wanted to perform a small procedure by taking part of my bone marrow out of my spine. He talked me through the whole procedure. I already knew a bit of information on the procedure as I am signed up to the Anthony Nolan foundation as a donor, a charity set up where people donate stem cells and bone marrow to people who need them, including people with leukaemia. This I think was around midday so I was getting a bit tired but just wanted to get everything over and done with. Dr Ed then started the procedure before my parents got back and bless my sister Laura who was right there to hold my hand whilst Dr Ed stuck a huge needle in my spine.
He said it would hurt and I could scream and swear if I wanted to. I thought I would probably shout a little but bloody hell it was the most excruciating pains I had ever gone through. Dr Ed had to put local anaesthetic in which felt like a horrible bee sting. He had to do this a few times so I wouldn’t feel any pain with the needles, just ‘pressure’. I would just feel pressure. The worst part was when Dr Ed had to take liquid from the bone marrow first and then with a second needle take a small piece of solid marrow from my bone. This is when I screamed and swore. At this point my parents, Scott and Jack were outside and could hear me screaming in pain. I knew they were finding it hard to listen to me without being able to do anything but like I said before I just wanted to get the procedure over and done with so I could be in pain for a shorter amount of time. The procedure probably only took 30-45 minutes. I had to lie in the same fetal position this whole time and couldn’t move. In this time I had gone from feeling faint to feeling sick to feeling fine and the emotions just kept on rotating depending what was happening. Dr Ed kept saying I was strong and an absolute legend for going through the procedure without having to stop.
Once the procedure was over I had about 15 minutes to myself with just Dr Ed and Laura in the room to compose myself before seeing the rest of my family who were waiting outside. I was aware they had just heard me scream in agony but asked to wait until I was ready to see their worried faces. Dr Ed went out and reassured them I was fine whilst I caught my breath.
Once I was ready I said they could come in. After going through such an ordeal I was just happy to be able to cuddle them especially Jack. I could see he felt guilty as he had left me at A&E that morning, not having the slightest clue I could have leukaemia and have to go through the bone marrow procedure.
They then took me to Room 1 in the Eden Ward at Wexham Park Hospital where I would spend the next 5 weeks. They started me on medication straight away including transfusions to boost my blood count whilst taking precautions before receiving my results from the bone marrow which had been sent off to a lab in Oxford for further tests.
Mum called Jodi, who at the time was in university at Loughborough, saying she should come down because it was getting more serious. She drove down from Loughborough to Basingstoke which is a 3 hour journey. My dad then left to pick her up and bring her back to the hospital so there wasn’t so many cars there. It was during that time that I got diagnosed.
Around 1700hrs Dr Philpot and a nurse called Ivana entered my room and gave me my diagnosis. Naturally I started to cry but I was still alive. I hadn’t been given a terminal diagnosis. I was still breathing with my family right beside me. My head was spinning with questions and Dr Philpot explained very briefly what the next steps would be. I had a few questions but one of my main thoughts was just to get through the next week of treatment as they were starting me on it straight away. Dr Philpot explained this Leukaemia was a very rare form however one of the most treatable by being 80%-85% curable. The treatment they were starting me on was the most successful but I was reassured if this one didn’t work there were other options. I was told I wouldn’t lose my hair and the side effects of this chemo were slightly different to your standard one that everyone hears about. My chemo would encourage the good cells to grow and mature. It would also kill off the bad cells but its main aim would be to grow the good cells and help boost my blood count. They mentioned fertility as well but again my main aim was to get better and get out of hospital then I would worry about the other stuff further down the line.
Dad and Jodi got to the hospital not long after my diagnosis. Someone went out and told them. They then came in and I can’t really remember the rest of the evening.
I wish it was just myself in the room when I was given my diagnosis. Just me, Dr Philpott and Ivana. I know it couldn’t be a planned thing but I had to deal with my emotions whilst seeing everyone else react. When we all started crying my mum and Laura came up and gave me hugs. This was nice. I’m not complaining but I was still in shock and they were smothering me with their love. I just thought maybe give me a minute?
My family stayed until after visiting hours and I had to have a few transfusions so I didn’t get much sleep. I was told Jack could stay with me each night and they bought him a pull out bed. It’s not the comfiest thing but I could hold his hand at night and I knew I was always with him.