Candid With Cancer #8 – My Second Cancer Diagnosis
Thomas Ashley details his battle against AML as part of a new weekly blog
Today, we hear the story of Laura Kelsey, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia – a type of blood cancer that affects bone marrow – and received a bone marrow transplant from the incredible team at Leeds Teaching Hospital – one of Cure Leukaemia’s Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) centres.
Back in December 2021, Laura Kelsey received the diagnosis that no young parent wants to receive. Aged just 34 at the time, she was told that she had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). She received a call late at night suggesting that she packs a bag and heads over to the Queen’s Centre, Hull, Ward 33 because the blood test she had given earlier in the day was indicating that her white blood count was exceptionally high.
Her family were at the pantomime at the time, so she left quickly with an overnight bag and headed to hospital – It was at this point that she knew something was seriously wrong.
“I had been struggling with fatigue for a couple of weeks, but working full time and with a young family I didn’t think much of it. However, my mouth became sore, particularly my gums, they became very swollen and began to bleed, finally after around 5-6 weeks my throat became sore. Even after a week of antibiotics I couldn’t shift it and tonsilitis is something I have never experienced before.” Laura explained.
“Eventually, I left work and contacted my GP the following morning as the infection had not cleared. A face-to-face appointment was made and he suggested I booked a blood test. Unbeknown to me at the time, my GP had potentially just saved my life.”
She spent a stressful night in Queens Hospital prior to being diagnosed, when her partner arrived the following morning and the consultant explained they were confident she had leukaemia.
“It’s hard to describe how you feel when someone gives you such a serious diagnosis. My thoughts turned to my children and my family and the worry of what would happen next for me and for them and also, I had limited knowledge about this type of cancer.”
Laura started chemotherapy straight away and had her first ever bone marrow biopsy which, in her words, “continues to be a toe-curling experience.” Chemotherapy for Leukaemia patients is tough going, very intense, undignified side effects and lonely because of the long periods of time in hospital, isolated, away from any family because of the risk of infection. This is particularly difficult and requires a lot of inner strength to overcome the challenges this brings to your mental health.
She was supported on Ward 33 at The Queens Centre prior to her bone marrow transplant before she was transferred to Leeds Bexley Wing to have her Bone Marrow Transplant in September 2022 whilst being supported by the Trials Team where she continues to have regular appointments in Leeds.
“Being a young Mum has made me have to fight to do all I can do to recover and get better. Having enjoyed exercise and living a balanced lifestyle, I very much asked myself why, how and what could I have done differently to prevent this.”
“Cancer can take away everything from you and it’s without a doubt both a physical and mental battle to overcome the torment it creates. Cancer made me unrecognisable, I became anxious and very self-conscious, I lost who I was, I needed to be cared for, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t socialise, and I have had to rebuild a new version of me.”
“However, hope continues to be my motivation, my body is re-building and fighting back, I am currently on maintenance chemotherapy and since my transplant I have made good progress to be build my body and reconnect with the world.”
“Family support is key, I would have crumbled had I not had the support from my family, particularly my husband and the Specialist Nurses who have enabled me to get my spark back, as well as my two children whose resilience and strength have motivated me to be the best version of me.”
“Leukaemia recovery is a long and windy road! I now wake up every day appreciating the time I have and I owe it to the health teams who have cared for me, people who donate blood and platelets as well as my donor who has gifted me life.”
National blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia currently funds the Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) which is a network of specialist research nurses at 15 blood cancer centres located in the UK’s biggest cities including a Research Nurse on Bexley Wing at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds.
This network enables accelerated setup and delivery of potentially life-saving blood cancer clinical trials to run, giving patients from a UK catchment area of over 30 million people access to treatments not currently available through standard care.
Research Nurses help connect patients to potentially lifesaving medicine and their role in administering these trials is vital to developing effective new treatments for blood cancers. As a result, patients, such as Laura, have access to new treatments, allowing them access to lifesaving new therapies.
To help support Cure Leukaemia in Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September, text BCAM to 70450 to donate £14.
For more information about Cure Leukaemia go to: www.cureleukaemia.co.uk