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 Lauren Murrell, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia – a type of blood cancer that affects bone marrow – and received a stem cell transplant from the incredible team at UCLH – one of Cure Leukaemia’s Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) centres.
Lauren was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) back in February 2012 during her final year at Law School. After she was taken to A&E following pains in her neck, night sweats, fever, lethargy and other symptoms, the doctors thought might be scarlet fever or glandular fever.
They took a blood test and within the space of 24 hours, she was told that she had developed AML and potentially only had a 20% chance of survival. She was hospitalized immediately, and treatment started right away at UCLH in London – one of Cure Leukaemia’s Trials Acceleration Programme centres.
“It was hard to put into words. I was fit, healthy and only 23 years old, so a cancer diagnosis was a massive shock. The treatment was so immediate and the isolation so intense that it demanded me to adapt quickly and accept the new reality.
“No longer a student at university, but a patient fighting for survival. Using my positive mindset to get me through the endless days in my hospital room by journaling, using affirmations, daily exercise (really!) and curating my hospital room with inspiring posters.”
Lauren was thrust into months of protective isolation (due to her extremely low immune system) as her life was thrown upside down and underwent chemotherapy (which didn’t work), then total body irradiation before eventually receiving a life-saving stem cell transplant from her sister, Sarah, who was a perfect 10/10 match. A true miracle.
“My sister Sarah not only saved my life, but she saved my skin too which had become ravaged after months of intensive cancer treatment.”
“She made skincare products at home to help restore and soothe my sensitive skin. After I made a full recovery, the stars aligned for Sarah and I to launch a business together: the original formulations Sarah developed for me have become our multi award-winning skincare line, By Sarah. I never thought I’d become an entrepreneur; it’s one of the most unexpected parts of my cancer journey.
“I developed my positive mindset and reinforced affirmations to “keep strong, keep really strong” as my hair started to fall out and treatment began, before Sarah cut my hair and we donated it to charity. It was a long and bumpy road to recovery. With many setbacks and hospital visits to deal with the collateral damage of so much cancer treatment.”
“AML is a tough, brutal cancer. But know that you are strong and your mind is stronger. Know that you will get through this, things will get better. The words from Rumi have been my guiding mantra and may help you too: Live life as if everything is rigged in your favour.”
Having made a full recovery following the lifesaving stem cell transplant from her sister, Lauren returned to law school and qualified as a lawyer working in London, New York and finally the British Virgin Islands until she was rescued and evacuated following the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
On arriving back in London, she was stoked for a new adventure. She decided to put her legal life behind her and to support Sarah in the creation of her formulations. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength – with the brand now retailing in Sephora, won a handful of awards and appeared in the likes of Vogue, Forbes, Elle and they are a certified B-Corporation with an army of superfans to whom they are very grateful!