GET SUPPORT GET CONNECTED Your Voices Natalie What cancer were you diagnosed with? chronic myeloid leukaemia What age were you diagnosed? 25 Natalie's Story In March 2012, I had been feeling run down for a while. Flu-ey, lethargic, falling asleep after work in front of the tv. I couldn’t really attribute it to anything. Perhaps because it was the start of the year and EVERYONE had been getting colds. On the plus side, I had started going to the gym and I was starting to lose weight. Hurrah! As the months went on, the run-down feeling turned into exhaustion, and daily nausea. I developed constant back pain - I thought I had hurt myself at the gym. Sometimes I vomited on my commute. Was I pregnant? I checked. Nope, not pregnant. But at least I was looking great in my smaller clothes… Everything I did that summer was marred by back pain, or tiredness, or being RAVENOUS yet unable to eat more than a few mouthfuls. Thinking back, I couldn’t believe how gaunt I looked. That the leukaemia had progressed so sneakily, so steadily, that I could ever have attributed it to anything other than a serious illness. I don’t like to see pictures of myself from that time any more. I went to the GP in the autumn, convinced by then that I was not ok. I went twice before he finally examined me. He asked where I worked; I said I worked in fashion. He looked at me, laughed and said I needed to eat more. I went home and cried. Finally, in November, I demanded to see someone else. She listened to my story and immediately took a blood sample. I was summoned to the hospital that evening. They said something about “high white cell count”. I had an inkling that it meant cancer. At the hospital, umpteen medical staff had real trouble getting the cancer-thick blood out of my veins. I was there for six hours and then taken up to another ward. Someone came in to weigh me. She casually said “it’s probably leukaemia”. My brain stopped working. She asked me if I wanted her to bring me pyjamas. The consultant came in and confirmed that it was chronic myeloid leukaemia. Everything moved pretty quickly after that. Lots of important questions barraging my brain (Can I have babies? Am I going to die? Will I lose my hair?). Drugs, a drip and apheresis to flush out the white cells. Bone marrow biopsy (ouch). And then, only five days later, home. With the miracle of all miracles, a targeted drug to fix my bone marrow. Minimal side effects. An angel of a clinical nurse. A steady road towards remission. A life-line. I also found Trekstock. Or Trekstock found me. I can’t quite remember how our paths crossed, but they were there after the initial madness died down, when I was feeling totally alone. I went to one of the meetups, so nervous, feeling that my cancer wasn’t “serious” enough to qualify me. And I met some truly amazing, welcoming, fun, caring people. They totally got it. It was invaluable support. And Trekstock continues to help me to accept what happened to me, that I can have cancer and still be myself.