Having retired and moved to the lovely Malvern Hills in August 2011, I soon became very ill with severe anaemia. After treatment at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital I made a full “spontaneous” recovery from what turned out to have been a side effect on my bone marrow from a viral infection.

Unfortunately my recovery was short lived and by Easter 2012 I had developed a rare form of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and again placed myself in the very capable hands of Dr Shafeek and his team at Worcester. It was then that I was first introduced to drug trials and specialist staff sponsored by Cure Leukaemia, and was signed up to be the first UK patient in a new trial to assess the effectiveness of MRD (Minimal Residual Disease) monitoring.

What an important decision this turned out to be! MRD monitoring, being much more sensitive than standard laboratory tests, detected very small quantities of cancer genes at a time when I may otherwise have been declared to be in remission following three rounds of chemotherapy in Worcester. As a consequence I was referred to QE Hospital, Birmingham for a stem cell transplant and first met Prof. Charlie Craddock CBE and his brilliant team – an experience that no leukaemia patient is ever likely to forget!

Cure Leukaemia has continued to influence my treatments. Following improvement of my “donor bone marrow” through Donor Lymphocyte Infusion (or a “top-up” from my very generous German donor, as I prefer to think of it!), I became free from MRD detectable cancer cells and have remained so for three and a half years

Thanks to Cure Leukaemia and the wonderful Haematology staff that I have encountered in Worcester and Birmingham, I have now been able to marry my partner Trish, meet my grandson Teddy and escort my daughter Hannah up the aisle. 

To be diagnosed with leukaemia is a shocking experience for anyone, and for their loved ones, but I firmly believe that being positive and placing your trust in the excellent teams of doctors, nurses and clinicians is the best way to maximise the chances of recovery. In conversations with fellow patients it has been quite apparent that very often there is a feeling of pride at being a very small part of the team through agreeing to take part in research trials sponsored by Cure Leukaemia.  I, for one, would like to maintain this pride by continuing to support the charity for the rest of the life that I have been given.

In 2015 I considered commencing an annual donation of £100 to Cure Leukaemia, but then decided to use this amount to finance the materials needed for production of plants which I could sell from my driveway at our home in Colwall, near Malvern. Thanks to the very generous support of local residents, sales have increased from £206 in 2015 to £885 this year. Not only have they purchased plants and spread the word about their quality but I have also received donations of hundreds of recycled pots and even plants to sell or propagate.  A car boot sale near Worcester was also successful, so more of these are planned for the future.

It was recently overheard in a local pub that someone in Colwall was selling plants that can cure leukaemia. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they really could! But at least they have now been used to help Cure Leukaemia and I can recommend them as a way of keeping active and making many new friends.

Steven Shaw