Taking time off due to leukaemia

Short version

I’m on medical leave for the rest of 2017 due to acute myeloid leukaemia (t-AML).

If you want to help me through my treatment, please:

I’d like my professional life to continue, so please keep asking me about forms and surveys.

Latest news – after 7 weeks

It turns out that supporting my husband through a complex stay in hospital with very little haemoglobin in my blood was unbelievably exhausting. I didn’t know how horribly tired I was until I received the first of many blood transfusions.

After I got over the initial shock of diagnosis and began treatment, I almost immediately began to feel very much better, Thanks to good Wi-Fi, and being allowed to bring in a few home comforts such as my usual big home monitor, I’m able to keep in touch with friends and family.

Thank you for messages of support, and special thanks to those who continue to offer me the opportunity to have some fun with forms and surveys when I feel like it.

My medical team kept me well throughout my first cycle of chemo, and I’m pleased to report that the results were just as they expected. After a short break at home, I returned to hospital still feeling very well and am now a couple of weeks into the second cycle of chemo – out of three planned in total.

There is a long way to go, but I’m immensely grateful to my medical team for 7 weeks when I have nearly always felt very well indeed. And I’m not dead, my other option. That wouldn’t have been nice.

My husband’s new kidney is working well; he is increasing his range of activities, and now only has to attend follow-up clinics at his hospital once every two weeks.

Background

On 15th March 2017, my husband left the Churchill Hospital with a new kidney. We are deeply grateful to his surgical and medical teams, and to the family of the donor who made this possible for him.

Also on 15th March, I was told to report to hospital because I had dangerously low levels of platelets in my blood. The following day, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

The type of AML that I have is a delayed side-effect of the chemotherapy that I had in 2001 as part of my treatment for breast cancer, so it’s abbreviated as t-AML. I don’t regret having that chemo because it’s given me 16 cancer-free years.

Treatment plan

My treatment started on 17th March with my first cycle of in-patient chemo. The overall plan is three cycles of in-patient chemo, followed by either a stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant depending on the results of the chemo.

Each cycle of chemo lasts four to six weeks and I need to be in isolation for much of that time. The transplant will also require being an in-patient in isolation, followed by a period of seclusion due to a low immune system. In total, the medical team anticipates that my treatments will take most of the remainder of 2017.

My teams

I’m entirely confident in my medical team that they will make the right decisions for me. If they had not diagnosed me and started treatment straight away, I could have easily dropped dead sometime in March, or at any time since. I’m very glad that I have the choice not to do that.

Fortunately for me, I have an extensive support network (as well as those provided by my hospital) who are looking after the non-medical aspects of my treatment. They include a life coach, a dietitian, other doctors, a yoga teacher, people who have had a similar type of cancer, people who have gone through other illnesses with similar types of treatment, and many others from all walks of life.

Some requests

Of course I am very appreciative of messages of support.

Medical

  • Do NOT send me any suggestions about my treatment. My medical team has my full confidence.
  • Do NOT send me suggestions about non-medical support. My support team has my full confidence.
  • If you want to help me through this, please DO give blood (UK).
  • If you are under 30, please DO join the stem cell register (UK).

Professional

  • Please DO continue to ask me questions about forms and surveys. You will understand that I may or may not answer them depending on how I feel.

I’d like my professional life to continue, and it”s up to you all to make that happen.