Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Survivors Perspective

This month we are taking a different approach and looking at things from the patient’s point of view. As an organisation which only supports research our aim has always been to improve results and quality of life for patients and we thought hearing their opinions and stories would not only be motivating and inspiring to the public, but also to our researchers and students.

Subsequently the idea for our I’m Still campaign was born.

Hopefully over the past few months you have seen some our social media posts for the campaign. This project was all about meeting local blood cancer sufferers who had been through the battle and come out the other side and returned to some sort of normality. We met ladies and gents from all over the country and heard about their journeys, some much longer than others.

Ellie Louise Brown was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2012, aged just three years and three months. She had contracted chicken pox and after several days, her mum, Fiona, a nurse, instinctively knew something wasn’t quite right. When her condition continued to deteriorate, Fiona urged doctors to carry out more tests. When these revealed Ellie Louise had leukaemia, she was in a critical condition and commenced life-saving treatment with just hours to spare.

Thankfully Ellie Louise responded well to treatment, she has just started P4 and still attends a regular clinic for testing.

Lyndsey Hogarth had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2011, when she was only 22.

Over the course of a month Lyndsey had become increasingly unwell but it wasn’t until she struggled with her breathing while waiting to see her GP that she was rushed to A&E. That same day with her mother by her side, Lyndsey was diagnosed with A.L.L. She was determined to fight her disease, but as a young woman found the physical changes to her appearance- hair and weight- hard to accept.

During treatment, Lyndsey and her partner of ten years, Ryan, were told their chances of having a baby could be affected. However Lyndsey surprised her doctors and nurses when she arrived for her two year all-clear check-up with a noticeable bump! She defied the odds and in May she gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy.

Tim Page was diagnosed with both Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma twice over the course of thirty years.

The 52 year old father first discovered he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was 20 years old whilst studying at university. It returned again a few years later when Tim was 23 and about to graduate, but again he recovered. He went on to join BT, marry wife Ruth and have twin sons, before cancer caught him by surprise once again at age 45. This time it was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Again, Tim fought through but only five years passed before he was readmitted to hospital- the cancer had come back. He underwent a stem cell transplant in December 2013, and has been in remission since.

One thing that was evident from all the survivors featured in the campaign was how they considered themselves lucky, despite months and in some cases years of treatment they were thankful for the second chance research had given them and they knew many others that hadn't been so fortunate. 

Developments in recent years have resulted in great improvements in survival rates with 3 in 4 blood cancer patients surviving more than a year after diagnosis. This is a great achievement when you consider that for many years Leukaemia was considered a death sentence for patients of any age. 

That being said there is still alot of work to be done and hopefully the projects we are supporting here in Belfast will bring about some positive changes for Northern Ireland patients. 

For more information on our campaign please see out facebook page or get in touch.