18th June 2020
Anne, an outgoing mother, grandmother and retired headteacher from Aberdeen, had been feeling unwell for quite some time when she visited the doctors in 2018 to try to get some answers. Water didn’t taste the same, she wasn’t enjoying food and no amount of sleep made her feel less exhausted.
Assuming it was a wrong number, she let it ring out. But when the phone rang again, Anne was shocked to hear from a doctor asking her to head straight in that morning and to bring an overnight bag.
Sadly, Anne couldn’t go home the next day. She wasn’t able to return home for the next four months, as she was immediately diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a rare and aggressive cancer that attacks red blood cells, platelets and certain white blood cells. In order to save Anne’s life, treatment had to start straight away.
As treatment continued, Anne’s sister, who was living in Greece, made the decision to return to Scotland for Christmas. The two of them were incredibly close growing up and having her sister by her side at such a difficult time meant the world to Anne. And amazingly, they soon found out that Anne’s treatment had worked.
Just as Anne went into remission, her sister was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Devastatingly, she quickly became more and more ill, sadly passing away in May 2019. Then, within a matter of weeks, Anne's own cancer returned.
Amazingly, almost a year later, Anne was told that she was in remission once again - but it felt very different this time, in a world that had been taken over by the coronavirus pandemic:
I had just found out I was in remission again and was able to be a little more adventurous on my daily outings when the virus broke out. I’m used to living alone, but it was a difficult couple of months; I missed seeing, hugging and socialising with my friends and family. Cancer and receiving treatment is daunting, even more so during a pandemic. I wasn’t even allowed to go for a walk around the block – how could I face a trip to the hospital?
The scare factor didn’t last long as within minutes I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I was even able to proceed with my treatment. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for many of my friends with cancer. While some had their treatments paused, one saw their condition worsen, and has since passed away after contracting the virus. It has been a really tough time.
But I remain hopeful. I was overwhelmed by the support I received from friends, family, neighbours and strangers alike. From the concerts put on by a local band on my street to the WhatsApp group created by neighbours – the new sense of community is like nothing I’ve experienced before.
Against all odds, the charity’s not given up on its quest to find new cures for cancer. Research has kept my family together for longer, and for that, we are eternally grateful.
I wouldn’t be here right now – able to see my grandchildren grow up – if it weren’t for how far cancer research has come over the years.