Symptoms and diagnosis
I was diagnosed with blood cancer about 15 years ago. I had been quite ill. There was nothing I could go to a doctor with to say it was something big. I had no traditional symptoms of blood cancer. I had no lumps, no bumps, no rashes, and no night sweats. But I was getting a lot of tiny infections, ear infections, little cuts that didn’t heal very much, and a bit of a cough that wouldn’t go away. I had lots of blood tests and they all came back fine. So it wasn’t until I became quite ill and got to the hospital. It was then I was actually diagnosed with cancer. It was because my calcium was very high. But even then, it took them a bone marrow test to find out what it actually was.
They told me that I had stage IV blood cancer in the bone marrow. So I had chemotherapy called archtop. I also had monoclonal antibody infusion therapy, which was fairly new. Antibody therapy is a lot more common these days and very successful. I also had to have chemotherapy injections of methotrexate in my spine to get to the brain. This is because chemotherapy doesn’t pass the blood barrier. I had received many blood transfusions because I was very anaemic. And at the end of my treatment, it was clear that I hadn’t finished my treatment. Finally, they made a stem. So I managed to do a stem cell collection just in case it comes back. Luckily, I’ve never had to use it.
Side effects and challenges
The side effects weren’t too bad. I had some small tablets for that. And I tried to keep the food fairly not bland. The biggest thing was I had really dry skin that itches dreadfully. And also, I got a lot of mouth ulcers which meant I couldn’t drink water. It was the little things that bothered me more than the treatments. Every month, I had chemo so mouth ulcers would come back. I used to use a natural oil that I made to rub into my skin and it worked really well.
Alternative therapies undergone
I ran natural treatments next to my medical treatment. I had all my chemotherapy and all the treatment too. But I was running my own treatment next to it. I did ask the doctors to let me know if this was okay. I was also using energy healing treatments on myself because I do Reiki. I’m a Reiki practitioner. And I did a lot of prayer and meditation and visualisations of my body being healed and cleared of illness. I tried not to eat any sugar because I thought that it could feed cancer.
It was quite hard to cope emotionally. I was under the care of a palliative care team. And they asked me if I’d like to see a psychologist. But I just didn’t want to talk about the negative side and how bad things were. I wanted to feel positive. So I did a lot of listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer. He talks a lot about positivity, the power of the universe, healing, and also about the power of spirituality. And I’ve always been a big fan of his. So I listened to a lot of his CDs. And I read a lot, even reread the books that I had. And it was just to try to change my mindset to keep me positive. But you, I am a quite positive person, but you can’t keep it up every day. Some days you have treatments that go wrong, and the blood tests aren’t what you hope. And all I tried to do was on those days, I gave myself 24 hours to be miserable. And after that 24 hour was over, I had to be positive again.
Some people say cancer was a blessing for them. If I’m honest, I would rather have not gone through the treatment because it wasn’t pleasant. But it was a blessing in that it changed my mindset to see a lot of the things that I thought weren’t important. What’s important is you know, your family, your health. If you’ve got health, you can do anything. You can work and have the ability to do anything.
If you haven’t got your health your life is restricted. So positivity that came back after cancer, you can wake up in the morning and think how bad things were looking at me today. How wonderful things have turned out and how appreciative I am of even the silly things like being caught in the rain. Yes, I got wet but I can feel it on my face. It’s something that when I was lying in a hospital bed, I was just desperate to do. Trust that your body is capable of healing, if you give it the conditions that it can heal, and that does include your doctors as well as yourself.
The stigma attached to cancer
Blood cancers are a really difficult one to pick up. I think I mean, sometimes people do feel ill and they go, they go to the doctors and they have a blood test. I hear more and more people whose blood tests are not showing it up. Anybody who has any symptoms that aren’t normal for them should go to a doctor and find answers for them. Because you’re not being a nuisance if the sooner you catch accounts the better. In England, I don’t think there is a stigma. I think when I had cancer, some people didn’t contact me. I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t know what to say. Just to say, I think there was a lot of that so some people didn’t get in touch when I was ill. So there is a bit of a stigma there. People are just, you know, wanting to know how you did it really. But when you are ill I think people struggle to know what to say. And if they don’t know what to say they’d rather just not talk to you at all, which is a bit sad.