One of our community members, Pat, agreed to tell us about her experience of being diagnosed with a rare type of bone marrow cancer to help raise awareness this World Cancer Day (4th February 2023).
Almost three years ago, Pat started to notice that she was feeling much more tired than normal, and that she was losing weight. “I wasn’t too worried,” says Pat, “But I rang up the doctors and explained how I was feeling. This was in 2020, and doctors weren’t seeing many patients face-to-face. I got a course of antibiotics, but I still wasn’t right.”
Some time later, Pat attended a routine appointment for an ongoing thyroid condition. “I mentioned the weight loss and how I’d been feeling to the nurse, and she was very conscientious. She ordered a full blood count, which came back with some alarming results.”
“An ambulance car actually arrived at my house to take me back to the hospital because some of the readings were dangerously low.”
But doctors still struggled to get to the bottom of Pat’s condition. “I had to have a number of different investigations, including an endoscopy and a bone marrow biopsy. Finally I was told over the phone that I had myleofibrosis - a rare type of bone marrow cancer.”
Pat was widowed 10 years ago, and spent most of her working life as a nurse. “I wonder if that’s why I’ve dealt with my diagnosis in the way that I have - because I’ve seen so many terrible illnesses and accidents happen to other people.”
Her stoicism and positive outlook is certainly impressive. “I’m so lucky to have lots of lovely people around me, and I keep myself busy. Keep smiling - that’s what I always say.”
Pat’s late husband Tony was Irish and, in his later years, he struggled with worsening MS. “We were supported by Leeds Irish Health and Homes and, after Tony died, I kept coming along. I can’t walk very far these days, but I still go to both Lunch Clubs, CHIMES, the painting group and the art group when I can. It helps me focus on the positives.“
Pat has also improved her digital skills through Leeds Irish Health and Homes digital inclusion sessions. “I’ve learnt how to use my iPad to go onto the Maggie’s website to get information and advice.”
Although some patients might shy away from knowing how much time they might have left, Pat asked her doctor for a prognosis. “He told me 16 months, which takes me to last October - and I’m still here.”
In fact, Pat was presented with an award as part of Leeds Irish Health and Homes’ celebrations for the International Day of Older People in October 2022. She was chosen by her peers as a “strong, inspirational woman” along with two other ladies from the LIHH community.
We’d struggle to think of a more deserving candidate. Thank you, Pat, for sharing your story.
Evidence suggests that Irish people - including second and third generation Irish people - are more at risk from cancer than other groups. Read more about the reasons here, and find out more about Irish in Britain’s campaign Cancer Comhra (Cancer Conversations) to get more Irish people talking about cancer here.