My diagnosis was Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia. My consultants were happy with this diagnosis as it has a high remission rate, with 80% survival rate and patients usually achieve remission from their first round of treatment. The majority of fatalities for APML are from the Leukaemia being caught too late.

APML is a subtytpe of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. It’s a cancer of the white blood cells where the bone marrow produces immature granulocytes called promyelocytes. My platelet count (platelets are what make your blood clot) when I was admitted to hospital was just 6, when it should be between 150 and 450. This means that I was at very high risk of having a brain hemorrhage, which is the leading cause of death related to APML.

It’s so rare that my consultant referred to it as a one in a million disease, but said it seemed to be more common in female with a median age of around 40 years old. There are only around 150 people in the UK diagnosed with it per year. Some hospitals go years without seeing a case of APML! She also said that if she had to pick a type of blood cancer to get, it would be APML, because it has a good prognosis, 6 months of intense treatment then hopefully back to normal, with a low relapse rate.

My first chemotherapy was called Idarubicin I had 4 doses from a syringe of it over the course of 8 days. It was a very strong chemotherapy with numerous nasty of side effects, including hair loss, nausea and fatigue. I also had tablets called ATRA, the tablets matured the immature cells in my blood stream and are the lifesaving drug for APML. Before the introduction of ATRA back in 1985, APML was classed as the worst kind of Leukaemia you could get, with a 100% fatality rate. It is now the most treatable kind of Leukaemia, and although they never use the words cured, the big milestone most Leukaemia survivors want to reach is 5 years of remission. At which point I will hopefully be discharged.

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