Ignoring Headaches: Kate Stallard, 32, who was dismissing her headaches as stress mainly revolving around a divorce of a partner she had been with for 10 years and married to for 18 months, was in shock when doctors told her she was as little as 48 hours away from death as she had leukaemia.
Kate, from Worcestershire, separated from her husband in the summer of 2016, and put her headaches down to exhaustion of her new circumstances before finally seeking medical advice when she became worried after collapsing in her bathroom in the night.
She was then diagnosed with promyelocytic leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, which had an average survival time of less than a week if not treated when it was first found back in the 1950s, though now with a much-increased life expectancy if treated in time.
She was told her immune system was so weak that she had a life-threatening sepsis and needed to start chemotherapy immediately, with as little as two days left to live.
After six weeks of chemotherapy, Kate was initially told she was in remission, only to then be informed that the cancer had returned, resulting in another bout of chemo, this time lasting 17 weeks. After this she was given the all-clear, and has stayed in remission since August 2017.
Unfortunately, the whole process happened so quickly that there was no time to freeze her eggs and that she would not survive it, which means Kate is now infertile, something which still affects her deeply.
She said: “One of the things that helped get me through my divorce was that I’m still young, so there was time to meet someone else and start a family.
“I held on to the hope that the chemotherapy may not do that much damage, but I have since gone for fertility tests and it wasn’t possible to harvest any eggs.
“That’s been one of the hardest parts, and most horrific side effects for me. I know adoption and so on is an option, and that I had to have the treatment to stay alive, but I still need to grieve.”
Regarding the time she was getting the headaches, she also had an unusually heavy period, which got her panicking.
She continued: “I’d spoken with a relative who’d had aplastic anaemia, a rare bone marrow disease, so I thought it’d be something like that, or perhaps even a virus.
“I assumed I’d go to the doctor and be sent off with some antibiotics.”
Being told it was not an argent case, she was told she would need to wait for a week for an appointment, but two days later she could barely walk and collapsed on the floor of her bathroom.
It was then she called 111 and got an emergency appointment.
“I went home to wait for the results, and around two hours later, my phone rang again with the doctor telling me I was seriously ill, and needed to get to A&E fast.”
From there started the two major bouts of chemotherapy. Finally she had advice for anyone who is suffering from peculiar symptoms – get it checked out.
“If you’re experiencing anything at all that doesn’t feel right – breathlessness, unexplained bruising, night sweats, bleeding or persistent infections – don’t be afraid to be open and honest with your doctor, and push for a blood test.”
For signs and symptoms of cancer, please check out this advice from NHS Choices.