WHEN mum Louise Moreton couldn’t shift her cough, she put it down to stress after moving from Oz to the UK.
But after being told it was flu, the 35-year-old eventually went back to doctors after noticing she’d lost weight and was exhausted all the time.
Louise was devastated when tests eventually showed she had an aggressive form of leukaemia – with doctors telling her she had to start treatment within 48 hours or she’d die.
Within a month of moving with British husband, Paul and their son, Leo, Louise began feeling run down and couldn’t shift her cough.
She put it down to the stress of moving to Durham – believing that she’d picked up a bug when her immune system was flagging.
She also developed headaches, which a doctor put down to a suspected bout of flu.
Louise said: “I was very new to the country, so was trying to find a doctor and navigate how the system works over here.
“I went back and forth to a GP, but they still thought it was just flu.”
By late October, however, the occupational therapist’s health had rapidly declined.
Despite the increasing severity of her symptoms, she found a job working in a hospice but just one week after starting, things came to a head.
“I got home after a shift and was playing with Leo, when this wall of fatigue hit me like nothing else. I just couldn’t get out of bed.
“That’s when my nose bleeds began too, and I started to feel very scared. I knew something serious was happening.
“I made an appointment at an urgent care centre and Paul virtually had to carry me in, I was that sick.”
She had an urgent blood test on November 3 – which confirmed that she had acute myeloid leukaemia…as well as pneumonia and sepsis.
“The doctor was incredible,” Louise said.
“I said to her, ‘Am I going to end up in a hospice, like the one where I work?’ She said they would do all they could for me. I held on to that and knew I had to fight.
Symptoms of leukaemia
Leukaemia is a type of blood cancer that attacks the immune system.
The disease is often classified as the type of cell affected (myeloid or lymphatic) and how it progresses (acute or chronic).
Often, there’s no definable cause.
Symptoms of acute myeloid leukaemia tend to develop over the course of a few weeks, and they become more severe as the number of white blood cells in the body increase.
They can include:
- pale skin
- excessive sweating
- weight loss
- frequent infections
- nosebleeds, bleeding gums
- bone and joint pain
“That must have been incredibly difficult for him. My family back in Australia felt helpless too.
“They had no idea what to do, and couldn’t physically be there. At the time, it felt like the world could not be bigger.”
She was admitted to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital for six weeks where she started treatment immediately.
As her immune system was so badly compromised, she had to be kept in isolation – away from her son who was around germs at school.
“To be told I couldn’t go home and that I needed to start treatment within 48 hours or I’d die was so shocking,” said occupational therapist Louise.
“All I could think about was Leo. We’d all gone from the absolute high of moving to the UK to not knowing if I’d survive.”
In March 2018, she was told that she was finally in remission.
Since then, she and her family have moved back to Melbourne to be closer to Louise’s family in case she relapses.
She now works with the charity Leukaemia Care, trying to raise awareness of the symptoms as part of their #spotleukaemia campaign.
“I got involved with Leukaemia Care shortly after my diagnosis,” she said. “I joined some of their support groups, which were my saving grace.”
Louise is hoping to inspire people to talk to their doctor the moment they notice any worrying changes in their health.
MORE ON CANCER
“All I want to do is raise awareness. It’s shocking how quickly and brutally this disease can claim lives if it’s left untreated.
“I know the NHS does an amazing job, and it’s flat out right now, but I hope to encourage people to be advocates for their own health too.
“Don’t doubt yourself – keep pushing if you feel something isn’t right.”
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