At first I thought I had flu, which was rare for me. I've always been healthy and not really suffered in from colds and flu like that - I even had a few days off of work. After three weeks I still did not feel right.

When I was diagnosed, I didn't feel too bad.

We have a dog called Dash, one day he jumped into the front of the car, jumping on me. When I got changed later that day, I noticed that I had bruises in the perfect shape of paw prints on my upper legs, it was really strange to see. That week, I came out in lots of mysterious bruises. This was in October 2019, I was due to start a new job in January for the NHS and as I turned 40 that year I had been invited for a full health check up at my GP. As I was worried about the bruises, I made an appointment. 

I explained my concerns with the nurse and my urine sample showed blood so I was given a blood test that same morning. At 5.30pm, my GP rang, said I had four platelets in my body, a bed had been organised for me in my local hospital and I had to get there as soon as possible.

When I arrived I was given more blood tests, the doctor came to see me first thing in the morning and they wanted to complete a bone marrow biopsy, as they thought it may be leukaemia. I was so frightened. I have two teenage sons, and the conversation with them that day was one of the most difficult conversations I have ever had. It was heart breaking. 

After the horrific test, I was later told that the doctor had not taken a good enough sample and it needed to be repeated, I wanted to refuse but I knew I had to go through it again. Within a few days I was informed that I had a disease called aplastic anaemia. The doctor told me to stop work immediately, go home, hope and pray - and not to Google the disease.

I was so confused - but very pleased to hear that I didn't have cancer. I needed so many transfusions - a bag of blood every week and two bags of platelets! I didn't know what aplastic anaemia was - I'd never heard of it or known anyone that had it. Within two weeks of being diagnosed, I was attending hospital four times a week, it was emotionally, physically and financially draining.

Of course I googled the disease. To my horror, on one website it stated a two year life expectancy! It felt like I went into a trance. I thought my life was over. I had always been told that life began at 40, but suddenly I thought mine would end very soon. My main concern was my children. 

My treatment

I had ATG treatment, but after waiting the long six months, I was told it had been unsuccessful. I needed a bone marrow transplant so my sister was tested - a 10 out of 10 match! Unfortunately she did not get through the assessment process. I am mixed race (English, Chinese, and West Indian) so when doctors looked at unrelated donors, it was a struggle.

Initially Bradford, my local hospital, diagnosed me, they knew nothing about aplastic anaemia. I was then referred to a specialist in Leeds. I remember one day I was receiving my transfusions in Bradford, and it was a rare time when a consultant spoke to me. I told him about not being able to find a donor, he said "It would have been easier if you'd had cancer" and said I wouldn't last long if I didn't find a donor. I cried so much that day. I felt that the doctor was so unprofessional, but if 1 in 2 people get cancer and 1 or 2 in a million people get aplastic anaemia (or so I'm told) - perhaps he was right and it would have been much easier for me and my chance of a good outcome??

A few weeks after I was diagnosed, I was on Google again and I found the contact details for The Aplastic Anaemia Trust. I ended up having a conversation with a lady that had aplastic anaemia and had a successful transplant, her sister was her donor.

It was just such a relief that someone knew what I was experiencing and to hear that you can recover from such a horrible disease. I was invited to join the group on Facebook, although when I initially joined, the first post I read was of a lady who passed away from aplastic anaemia, which shocked me and put me off a bit! I have a nosey now and again but I have not posted anything yet.

I have joined a few of The Aplastic Anaemia Trust's online support groups, in some ways it's empowering telling my story and meeting folk that also have aplastic anaemia, but its been very emotional. In one group, I broke down in tears. I felt like I was grieving for myself, which I didn't think would have been possible.

Things are going better with my treatment now. I had a bone marrow transplant in January 2021, from an unrelated donor.

Having my stem cell transplant

I celebrated a year post transplant on 21st January. It wasn't an easy process at all - but here I am!

Last summer at the beach - transfusion free!

I have started work again in February, and I can't wait to get back to some normality, at last! The Aplastic Anaemia Trust have referred me to see a psychologist from Maggie's, I feel I need some extra support to help me to manage what it's like to live with so much uncertainty in my life.