Madeline Hawkins was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) back in June 2012 after she was referred for additional blood tests following complaints of pain in her feet.

However, once the tests came back, it highlighted a very high platelet count which came as a surprise to Madeline considering she had displayed no additional symptoms.

“I had had no other symptoms and so it all came as big shock to me when I was called on a Wednesday evening, having had the test on the Tuesday, to say that I was booked into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Haematology department the next morning at 9am. Obviously, I was rather alarmed at the speed at which things were happening and had prepared myself for bad news.”

Accompanied by her husband at the Haematology department the next day, doctors explained that they were 90% sure that she had CML, but wouldn’t be able to confirm it until she had had another blood test sent off.

“I felt shell shocked and rather numb, whereas my husband burst into tears. They were most sympathetic and produced a box of tissues and we all had a little laugh at the ridiculous nature of the situation, which broke the tension of the moment.”

“She very quickly tried to reassure me that if I was going to have leukaemia, it was “a good one to have” because there were several options available for treatment and that if one didn’t work on me, then they would try something else.” 

Professor Charlie Craddock CBE tried to reassure the couple that there were a number of treatment options available to me.

I asked what would happen if none of the medications worked (as you always think that you might be the one it didn’t work for). Once again he reassured us by saying that the very worse case scenario could be a bone marrow transplant, which he felt confident he would get a match for.  This positive attitude gave me something to hang on to and helped me get through the first few difficult months.”

The blood test confirmed CML and Madeline was offered to go on a randomised clinical trial. Having discussed it at length with her husband and son, she opted for the trial as she thought it would help with research and would also offer the possibility of being watched over regularly. She was assigned a Research Nurse for the trial who would be her first point of contact for any issues, and a reassuring voice at the end of the phone.

This was wonderful for me because I could ask her questions that may have seemed trivial to others but that were worrying me. She was always available and would reassure me. I had one or two hiccups throughout the trial but generally everything went well and eventually I went into Cytogenic remission and now into “undetectable.”

Madeline is now coming up to her first year of coming off the drugs completely, after being weaned off for a year.

“I can only say that I have had wonderful treatment from the Haematology Unit in my 11 years of being looked after. It is like being in a family who always look out for you. All the people at the unit have been so helpful, kind and compassionate, I cannot speak highly enough of them. I have felt looked after and reassured at every step and they have helped me in my journey so much and made it easier for me to cope with my condition.”

“Cancer affected my life in the early years because I was not sure what was to come. It made me more determined to look after myself and to cut myself some slack.”

“I decided to retire a year early to give myself the best chance of recovery, although I did continue to work the first year of my diagnosis, which was a good thing because it kept my mind occupied. Gradually I became more confident that I could live a normal life and do not really consider myself as ill any more.”

“I think I was lucky to have a treatable blood cancer and the evidence gave me plenty of hope that I could live for a long time with this, however, I still think that the best advice is to be positive about your illness, do exactly what you are told to do by the clinicians and to look after yourself physically and emotionally.”