Candid With Cancer #8 – My Second Cancer Diagnosis
Thomas Ashley details his battle against AML as part of a new weekly blog
Blood Cancer survivor and Dad of three Stephen Curnow is gearing up to tackle Cure Leukaemia’s London To Paris cycle ride in under 4 weeks time to help raise funds for the pioneering Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) Network.
Stephen was first diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) in March 2020 after the extraction of a wisdom tooth that didn’t heal properly.
Looking back on it, he spoke about how he had also begun to lose weight and had been unusually tired but he had put this down to having three small children alongside working full time as a Mental Health Nurse.
It was obviously quite stressful between the point of first being provisionally diagnosed and having the bone marrow biopsy a few days later, after which they could be a bit more certain and get me on some treatment.
The staff were always very confident and positive with me so that helped. Once I was on some treatment I felt reassured, even if that bit was also physically very difficult.”
With Covid spreading across the country, it was a difficult time for Stephen, who was desperate to help colleagues with mental health issues as a result of the lockdown periods the country found itself under.
“To be ill at that particular time COVID-wise was very worrying. I suppose that the combination of my diagnosis and COVID meant that I was vulnerable and pretty much had to stay at home. I wasn’t able to work which was hard.
It was difficult to be sat at home feeling like I was doing nothing. Obviously, I’ll always be grateful for the treatment I am on, but it makes you feel worse before it makes you feel better! So that period was hard going, being at home and just feeling sick and tired the whole time but having three small children (my oldest was only 4 at the time and my youngest not even 1) but not wanting to freak them out too much.
Since then, I have been very fortunate, in that with the treatment that I have had ever since and the support of my friends and family, I have made a full recovery to the point where it has a minimal effect on my life now.”
But outcomes like this haven’t always been possible for people with CML. The treatment that I currently have has only been around for the last 20 years or so. Before that, people with CML tended to have a life expectancy of around 3-5 years after diagnosis so I’m acutely aware that things would have been much worse for me if I had been in this situation back then when I was in my 20’s.
Stephen has now been juggling work-life with cycling and family life in a bid to prepare himself for four days on the saddle. Cycling proved to be the perfect outlet for Stephen during his recovery process.
I’m now having to put the miles in to be ready for June and when I get back from my rides my three boys are enjoying laughing at me in my silly cycling gear and asking me how many miles I’ve done!
But I feel very fortunate to be (hopefully!) be fit and well enough to be able to give something back to a charity that has done so much to help people like me, and to hopefully contribute to better outcomes for those who are not so fortunate at the moment.
I’m determined to be as ready as I can so that I enjoy the ride as much as I can. Norfolk is a great place to cycle around, even if I’m not getting much hill training in!”
You can help support Stephen’s fundraising by donating online via his JustGiving page here.