As Cure Leukaemia Chief Executive James McLaughlin works his way around the country, running 14km around every hospital that the charity funds, we will be catching up with patients from across the country who have had their own experiences with blood cancer and how progressions in treatments have helped saved their lives.

Today, we hear the story of Fiona McCamphill, who was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma – a type of blood cancer that affects bone marrow – six years ago now and received treatment at the Royal Hospital in Belfast and the Belfast City Hospital.

So, my story began almost six years ago now, on Halloween night in 2017 at the Royal Hospital, Belfast.

I had severe pain in my lower and middle back! So much so that I paid to see my Spinal Surgeon to have an MRI scan. My husband and I had planned and paid for a fab American touring trip as we were married 25 years ago the previous July, and we were both turning 50 so it was a big year for us.

However, we didn’t realise just how it would pan out. We had to cancel and lost everything as my pain and lack of mobility was so bad.

I knew things were bad – I had fractured my spine four years previously so I was used to pain of this type. What I wasn’t ready for was those words, “It looks like you have blood cancer.”

The scan and x-rays showed black shadows on my spine and skull that were typical of some weird thing called Multiple Myeloma, otherwise known as cancer of the plasma in my blood.

Initially, it was like a kick in the stomach, teeth and head all rolled into one. Fireworks were going off in my head that night as well as outside my window on the ward. I was shocked, but I also had something to fight against. It was going to be tough, but I knew I was going to get the best help possible but I had lots of questions.

What did this mean? What was the prognosis?  All these questions, yet it was surreal. Was he really talking to me, about me?

Fiona’s husband, Niall McCamphill, previously rode all 21 stages of the Tour de France in 2022, as part of The Tour 21 to help raise funds for the charity (Pictured, Centre with Husband Niall and son Seán.

I was admitted that day and spent the next month in the top floor level 10 of the City Hospital, next to the nurses station, receiving chemotherapy every other day for the next few months and radiotherapy every day for two weeks. It was a matter of a day at a time with the support of my family, especially my husband Niall, surviving and dealing with each issue that dared to raise its head along the way.

My wonderful Consultant Sarah Lawless and the brilliant nurses in the Haematology Ward helped me battle and find a way of controlling symptoms, sickness, allergic reactions and many more.

I was in a bubble – but a safe bubble. A place I did want to be at that time. A place where others were in similar positions. A place where I felt normal. And a place I got some answers. Some I liked and some I didn’t …..if I didn’t understand something I asked them to explain again until I DID understand.

I certainly had plenty of ups and downs along the way but I have been left with so many positives to take away from it:

+ Yes, I would lose my hair – not good – however, it has grown again, and it’s even nicer than it was before.

+ My cancer is treatable BUT it’s not curable.

+ I’ve been given excellent treatment which my body has responded excellently to and my cancer levels in my blood are zero.

+ I’ve had a stem cell transplant which has hopefully increased my chances of living a healthy life for longer.

+ My pain is much less, and is under control.

I’m now able to waken up each day and live normally without thinking about cancer every other minute. Life is good! For every negative, I try to find at least one positive – that is my way of dealing with cancer.

I live with it, I don’t let it rule me!!