*This is a guest post
Amy is a mum of two young children and wife to her Police Constable husband. She was diagnosed this year with a rare form of Myelofibrosis – a type of blood cancer – and given a prognosis of just four years. See how she’s found this life-changing journey…
Being a mum can be tough – we’ve all felt rung out after a day of school runs, packed lunches and work. So what happens when those ‘working-mum life’ symptoms are covering something more sinister?
I’ve always been a keen runner and my time in the police force has kept me pretty active – as well as running around after two kids! I noticed I was becoming more and more tired on my usual runs, not able to complete them as fast, then not being able to complete even half the distance I’d normally do. I eventually had to stop running entirely as there was nothing in the bank. I had so little energy I had to park in spots next to my work building as the short length of the car park had become a marathon for my body.
I later learned this was due to the condition causing insufficient production of red blood cells in the bone marrow – this leads to breathlessness due to a lack of oxygen in the body. My symptoms became increasingly intrusive on my day-to-day life, presenting as a severe form of flu: fever, chills, aches and pains around my shoulders, no energy, and chronic headaches that would knock me to the floor in agony. After hitting rock bottom with my symptoms I went to my GP and had blood tests. The results showed I had half the red blood cells the average woman should have. Blood transfusions began immediately under the haematology department who ran further tests to confirm my diagnosis.
Even before the results came back, I had a feeling it was something to do with cancer; I just knew something wasn’t right with my body. I was later diagnosed with Myelofibrosis. I’d Googled my symptoms as not knowing what was wrong was very difficult for me and had actually mentioned Myelofibrosis to my husband, as it was similar in description to the symptoms I was experiencing. This meant I took the diagnosis relatively well at first as I had almost prepared myself, even though it was still distressing to hear those words. I had prepared myself somewhat and always try to remain positive as best I can. But the prognosis of four years if the hospital didn’t intervene with a stem cell donor really hit home. I felt guilt, sadness, frustration – the entire spectrum of emotions. I couldn’t stop thinking of my kids. They don’t deserve to lose a mother so young, my husband doesn’t deserve to lose his partner and I was afraid what was going to happen to me.
I was told my only chance of serious remission was to find a blood stem cell donor. There’s a 1 in 3 chance of finding a match in your family – unfortunately for me, my brother tested negative, so I turned to the blood cancer charity DKMS to help me find my potential lifesaver. I’ve been luckier than most and a match was found within a few months of the search commencing – something I am extremely grateful as others are searching for years, or heartbreakingly don’t find a match in time…
My blood stem cell transplant is provisionally booked for July. The process for donors isn’t as scary as you might think -about 90% of blood stem cell donations are made through a peripheral blood stem cell collection (similar to giving blood) and only around 10% are made via bone marrow (collected from the back of the pelvic bone).
I can’t thank my donor enough – I don’t know who they are but would love to meet them in person one day (following a two year period after the donation) and thank them for saving my life when no one else in the world could. They’re giving me a second chance at life. They’re giving my children their mother back. I’ve been in limbo since hearing my four years prognosis but because of them I will be able to live my life to the fullest once again.
Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer and the registry currently falls drastically short of finding a match for everyone. Anyone in the UK aged between 17 and 55 and in general good health can register with DKMS.