A Chichester mum has spoken of the 'indescribable' impact her 12-year-old daughter's leukaemia battle has had on her family — saying it was like 'someone had shut the door behind us so there was no way back'.
Jane Baggott — whose daughter Olivia was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in September 2017 when she was 11 — is hoping to encourage as many people as possible to learn the symptoms of leukaemia during Blood Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) which takes place throughout September.
She said: "Her problems started with acute lower back pain in July 2017, followed by pain in several other joints that developed after physical exercise. In the middle of the summer (2017) she developed a cold which hit her harder than normal and following that she started to rapidly lose weight and started being sick.
"During the eight weeks leading up to her diagnosis we went to A&E, saw three GPs and were referred to a physio for several appointments, we were also admitted to our local hospital the week before diagnosis with suspected Lyme disease from a tick, or potentially a kidney infection."
Olivia was transferred to Southampton Children’s Hospital following an MRI of her lower spine.
Possible leukaemia was spotted after an in depth, full body MRI scan.
Jane added: "It felt like we’d entered a long narrowing tunnel as soon as we’d entered hospital care and someone had shut the door behind us so there was no way back!
"By the time we got the diagnosis our daughter was so poorly that we already knew something was wrong and just wanted to get her treated and better.
"Nothing in the world could have prepared us for the news that we received. Our first thoughts were 'will she die?' We were utterly terrified and our world shattered."
Jane said the family would be 'eternally grateful' for the 'incredible' team on Piam Brown ward at Southampton General Hopsital who gave Olivia the 'best care possible'.
"No parent wants to see the effects that chemotherapy has on a sick child, but somehow you get on with it — with chemotherapy and numerous infections we spent five months in hospital," Jane said.
"Six months to the day of her diagnosis, our daughter got to ring the end of treatment bell and is now in remission.
"All our lives have been changed forever by leukeamia; the impact on the whole family is indescribable.
"The risk of relapse is never far from our minds and we are caught between trying to give our children a normal childhood and constantly worrying, watching for signs that the disease may have returned.”
Spotting the symptoms
According to Cancer Research UK, 9,900 people were diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2015, which is 27 people each day.
Leukaemia Care, a national blood cancer charity, is attempting to raise awareness of the disease, as well as its signs and symptoms, as part of their #SpotLeukaemia campaign.
A spokesman for the charity said it can be hard to spot because the signs and symptoms are common to other unrelated illnesses.
They added that the six most common symptoms experienced by all leukaemia patients prior to diagnosis are; fatigue, bruising or bleeding, bone/joint pain, fever or night sweats, sleeping problems and shortness of breath.
The charity's statement also urged anyone with any concerns, no matter how minor, to visit their GP as soon as possible.
It added: "The campaign seeks to raise awareness of what leukaemia is, the symptoms to spot and who can be affected by leukaemia.
"The charity wants to equip people to spot the signs and symptoms of leukaemia, and urge them to visit their GP if they have any concerns. Early diagnosis saves lives and improves outcomes."
Leukaemia Care said it is giving away free symptoms cards to raise awareness of the types of leukaemia and to 'empower people' to visit their GP if they feel worried.
Symptoms cards, as well as more information about the campaign, can be found and ordered at the Leukaemia Care website.
The campaign can also be found on social media by searching #SpotLeukaemia.