On April Fool’s Day 1996, at the age of 11, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. As you can imagine, at the time I didn’t see the funny side, even though I wanted it to be a practical joke being played on me.
My symptoms of leukaemia
I had just started secondary school so was in the process of making new friends and finding my feet. I was enjoying playing different sports, like rugby and I seemed to be fitting in fine. Not too long into the New Year, I noticed that I was getting bruises in various places on my body. To begin with, it didn’t seem to be anything to worry about. I was doing a lot more sport at school and my parents and I put it down to that.
As time went on however, the bruises appeared on more parts of my body and were taking much longer to go away, if at all. Perhaps stupidly at the time I ignored it, as I felt fine within myself. However in late March, I remember becoming more and more tired which ended up with me taking a day off school. It was on my day off that I came out with red blood blisters all over my body.
When the doctor came and told my mother I had to go to hospital, something was clearly not right. A day later we were taken to The Royal Marsden and told that I had leukaemia. I broke down at this. At that young age the connection between cancer and death is easily made.