This month is blood cancer awareness month and my aim is to raise awareness. Nearly 30,000 people this year will be given the devastating news that they have a blood cancer. Thanks to research, the survival rate and quality of life for individuals diagnosed with blood cancer continue to improve. Unfortunately last year I was one of these people and from the symptoms I had it was the last thing I expected. I have recently been sorting out the photos on my laptop and come across a few of me in hospital. These are quite personal photos but I have learnt to not be afraid so I want to share these with everyone to reassure people who are also fighting cancer or know someone who is fighting cancer. It is a hard battle but i'm now on the other side and recovering well, there is hope. At the time I felt like complete shit but I stayed as positive as I could and beat cancer and today I am 9 months post stem cell transplant and so far cancer free :)
Staying positive is a huge key to fighting cancer.
This is what me and my family call 'THE PHOTO'.
This photo was taken the morning after a night out I had with the girls. On the night I felt poorly and not myself at all. I was complaining how ill I felt and everyone said how I looked like a vampire.This was taken 3 days before I was diagnosed and I did not have a clue what I was going to be faced with in the next few days.
My symptoms included bruising of the gums, bruising, mouth ulcers, swollen glands, sore eyes and weight loss. Never did I think of this resulting in me being diagnosed with cancer. My advice is to go to the doctor even if you think 'oh its nothing.'GO!
The photo below was taken when I was in hospital. I had been in for 4 days and had already started my first round of chemotherapy. I didn't realise at the time but looking back I looked as white as a ghost and am covered in bruises. I had a Picc Line fitted in my arm and had to have lots of bags of blood and fluid as I was really anemic and dehydrated.
This was taken on the same day as the previous photo. As you can see it didn't take me long for me to decide to cut my hair. When I was diagnosed it was one of the first things I thought about, I'm sure any girl would. As most of you all know I had really long blonde hair and when I was told that I was definitely going to loose my hair I wanted to cut it short. I was told that my hair would fall out in clumps and I would rather short clumps to fall out than long pieces of hair wouldn't you?. This didn't bother me as much as I thought as I knew it would eventually grow back.
3 months into my treatment, I had 2 rounds of chemotherapy and things were going smoothly (well sort of) I was in the middle of having a platelet transfusion through my central line (line in my chest) and I had an allergic reaction which resulted in having a huge itchy, hot rash all over my body. It was so horrible that I cried my eyes out like a baby, it was not pleasant. Mum covered me in freezing cold paper towels to cool my skin down and after having a piriton it calmed down. I was pretty worried after this but was told It is normal and happens because it's a donors platelets and my body reacted to them as they are 'unknown'. After having this allergic reaction I had to take a piriton every time I had a platelet transfusion.
Everyone reacts differently in different situations. Me and my family believe to stay positive in a bad situation and what's more positive than being funny and laughing. When I had my down days I could always rely on family and friends to cheer me up. This picture was taken by my mum, when her and Kate were playing buckaroo on me! They were balancing anything they could find from my room, bottles, chocolates, books...anything and when I eventually moved everything would fall off. This is just one of the funny games we played to pass time.
5 months into my treatment and my positivity was strong and smiling. This photo was taken whilst I was waiting to go down to have total body irradiation. This involved in having probes attached to my head all the way down to my ankles. I had to lay on a bed and stay as still as possible while I was zapped by a big lazer (radiotherapy process).I had to have TBI as part of preparation for my transplant. Having TBI prevents production of blood cells. After having my full dose of TBI over 3 days, I had Kierans stem cells infused through my central line to 'rescue me'. This stage of my hospital journey was my worst. I felt REALLY ill. My energy levels were really low and I genuinely couldn't do much.
These are photos of Kieran having his stem cells taken, the day he saved my life :) He was attached to a machine for 4 hours and produced an excellent level of cells. It was really brave of him to do this and it was great news that he was a perfect match. We only had a 1 in 4 chance that he was a match so we were really really lucky. You can read more on this here at Stem Cell Transplant.
The last photo is of the stem cells. They are not what I expected them to look like, they look like a small bag of blood and they really smell like sweetcorn.
These photos were taken 2 weeks after I had my transplant. I suffered with a lot of side effects and one of these were jaundice this is where your skin and eyes turn yellow in colour. This happened because my liver was affected by me taking a high dose of cyclosporine (my anti rejection drug). Scary to look at really, but after a few days it cleared up.
After looking at these photos I have realised how far I have come and how well I am doing today. Even Though I don't have half as much energy and strength as I used to and still have to go to hospital every month. I am cancer free and thats all that matters to me. It was a very rough year but I am looking forward to getting back to normal life and I know it will take time but I am slowly getting there :) I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for my brother donating his cells to me. If it wasn't for research this treatment would not be known. Thanks to the development into the research of treatments for blood cancer more people each day are successfully treated.
Always smiling x