My website is named in honour of my grandmother Alice, my angel, who died from cancer when I was a teenager.
My mission is to raise funds for the Leukaemia Research department in Hammersmith Hospital who have been by my side with their professionalism, love and strength throughout my journey.
My name is Theresa.
I am in remission for Leukaemia (AML), I am on some medication still to help my recovery from the GVHD.
I want to share my story with you because when I was diagnosed, I couldn’t find anyone to talk to, who had gone through what I had just been diagnosed with.
There was no one I could talk to who could help me gain any sort of understanding of what I was about to face…. and I had so many questions in my head, along with the shock and anger that was raging through my body.
The nurses and doctors were great, but they hadn’t experienced AML and I needed to connect with people who had gone through this and had come out the other end.
I live in West London.
I am a Mother, a Nan, a Sister and an Auntie.
Until I was diagnosed, I was working for the NHS in Charing Cross Hospital for almost 18 years. I really loved my job and was planning to advance my career, not be collecting my pension at the tender age of 46.
I had been off work due to having a nerve operation on my elbow and I was getting a little concerned because it wasn’t healing well. I had also been getting quite a few bouts of tonsillitis, which were not clearing up with antibiotics from my GP. So as a precaution my GP sent me for blood tests thinking I could be suffering from Glandular Fever.
I had my tests done one morning in November 2011. That afternoon I received a phone call while I was at work from my GP requesting me to attend hospital ASAP.
It turned out my condition was quite complicated to diagnose.
It actually took the doctors a whole week to discover I had AML.
This was because I was showing no symptoms at all. .I had been told by quite a few people I looked like I had lost a lot of weight, but I had been trying to do that.
The registrar who sat with me to break the news was so lovely. He was holding back his tears as he explained what they had found. I also had a nurse sitting in the room with me, who I later found out was to be my wonderful specialist nurse.
I remember asking the usual questions: Will I survive this? Why me? What did I do wrong?
Of course, no one in the room that day could predict anything, but I was told because I was young and healthy I had a good chance of survival and that was all I needed to hear. I made a pact with myself in that moment I would remain positive no matter what happens. I will smile through my pain and cry as often as needed to. I was determined to stay strong for myself and my family, especially my children as they were still young.
I made a promise to myself I wasn’t going anywhere but home.
Things then started to happen really quickly. I got moved to an isolated room in the Weston Ward in the Catherine Lewis Centre in Hammersmith Hospital. This was to become my new home for the foreseeable future. To be honest it felt like an eternity.
Of course, as the Chemotherapy and Radiation treatment started the inevitable happened to my hair – it started to fall out. I was devastated. I knew it was going to happen, but I just hadn’t managed to get myself into the mind space of seeing it happen. I really loved my hair and watching it fall out bought it home to me what was happening to my body.
When I was ready to face it, my amazing nurse shaved my head. I grieved for days afterwards for what I had lost, but then pulled myself up and remembered I had a bigger fight on my hands and hey my hair will grow back!
Every day I was having Chemotherapy, Radiation and IV drugs. I lost a lot more weight because eating was hard as I felt sick constantly and was being sick so often. I do remember laughing to myself at one point because I would have preferred to have gone through a 10-week course of Box Fit Cardio to have achieved my weight loss, And this is from a girl who didn’t rate exercise as her number one hobby!
I was allowed to visit my daughter for Christmas dinner.
She picked me up in the morning.
It was the strangest feeling to be in a car travelling on the roads just like a normal person. The daylight was hurting my eyes and I did feel pretty apprehensive in case something happened while I was away from my hospital bed. But thankfully it didn’t and I had a wonderful day.
She took me back to the hospital that evening and it was hard to adjust again, even though it had only been one day out. I wanted to be back at home with all my things around me, not stuck on a hospital ward. Depression was one of the hardest things I had to battle with mentally while I was in hospital. That and the guilt for not being at home for my children.
What happened next made me realise that despite all that I was going through I was one of the luckiest women alive, because my sister was found to be a donor match. I had been given another chance of life and I will be forever grateful to her for that.
I had my transplant in March 2012. I then had what I call a top up in Feb 2013.
At the time I was receiving the transplant I actually felt fine, but as soon as it was all over the pain was unbearable. Worse than the Chemotherapy and Radiation combined.
I ended up on Morphine, which In time put me in a coma for a couple of weeks.
This extended my stay in hospital for months. I was bedbound for quite a lot of the time and as a consequence, my legs literally stopped working.
When I eventually got to go home, I was very weak and wobbly on my feet as I had spent so long in bed. I had to teach myself to walk up and down stairs again. In fact, I had to teach myself how to do many things again, including living.
Being back at home was the goal I had set myself many months ago and the reality of making it overwhelmed me so much. I walked around in a daze for weeks!
My friends and family all rallied round to help because in the early days I found myself in and out of hospital due to infections. This was because through my transplant I had lost all of my immunity and childhood vaccinations. It was a scary time and I want to let everyone who was there for me know how eternally grateful I am.
Having experienced all that I have, my life has completely changed. I have embarked on a spiritual journey that has allowed me to find acceptance around what happened. I have also worked on releasing my internal traumas, lots of which I have carried with me since childhood. This is a huge subject and one I am always happy to talk about, just a much as I am happy to talk about my AML, how it affected me, and listen to your story too.
I am not medically trained, but without my consent this disease landed on my doorstep and I want to share what I learned from it with you. I want to provide a safe space for you to be vulnerable in. I want to let you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sending much love ❤️🙏🌎