Hi. I’m Grace’s sister, Dee. September is blood cancer awareness month. You may have seen Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen promoting awareness of the condition on TV this week.
I was diagnosed with blood cancer earlier this year and I thought that it would be helpful if I shared my story with A&G readers.
Blood cancer affects the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system in our bodies. The three main groups of blood cancer are leukaemia, lymphoma (the most common) and myeloma. It is diagnosed as either chronic (slow growing/indolent) or acute (aggressive/fast growing). There is no cure for blood cancer but the good news is that there are many treatments available.
The most common symptoms of blood cancer include:
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lumps or swellings
- Drenching night sweats
- Persistent, recurrent infections
- Unexplained fever
- Bone, joint or abdominal pain
- Fatigue/tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep
- Unusually pale complexion
You should visit your GP if you have any worrying, persistent, unexplained symptoms. It could be diagnosed as another condition, but it is always best to get checked at an early stage.
I have been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) which affects the white blood cells and progresses slowly. I may never need treatment. This type of cancer mainly affects people over the age of 60.
I noticed that I was bruising easily, having night sweats, infections that took a long time to improve, bone pain and an uncomfortable feeling under my left armpit when I lay on my side at night.
I visited my GP who arranged for a blood test and ultrasound scan. The result of the tests identified that I had enlarged lymph nodes under my armpit. I was then referred for a biopsy of the lymph nodes which confirmed that I had CLL blood cancer at Stage 2. This is a ‘watch and wait’ cancer that doesn’t require any immediate treatment.
I was registered with the oncology clinic, given an information leaflet with details of support groups and booked in for another blood test in 6 months. I also had a bone marrow biopsy which, to be honest, isn’t the most pleasant procedure to have done!
I have to say that my diagnosis came as a shock initially but I have now adjusted to living with the condition.
Regarding preventative measures, I have an annual flu jab and pneumonia vaccine. Because my immune system is low, I cannot have any live vaccines (e.g. shingles) or eat live yoghurt. I need to adhere to strict hygiene routines when handling animals, changing nappies, using public loos and when visiting other countries. I had to inform my travel insurers of my condition which has increased my premium but, other than that, I continue to lead a normal busy lifestyle.
I check my body regularly for any changes. I also researched complementary therapies and take a daily dose of turmeric, magnesium, vitamin D and B12. I also intend to have a regular massage and take regular exercise.
So please visit your GP if you have any of the above persistent, unexplained symptoms. It could be diagnosed as another condition but it is always best to get checked at an early stage.
If you would like to read more Wellbeing posts, click here