TWO YEAR EXAMS
A picture of Raquel now
"I had just turned 21 and was about to sit two assessment examinations during, what I thought, was going to be my last year at university. The previous two weeks I had had to go to casualty several times with a terrible back pain. The last time I was given a blood test and my blood cells were found to be in a real mess. Again, I had to wait for a long time whilst the test was thoroughly checked, I was told this was to discard leukaemia. Finally I was hospitalized for further testing and three days later, after having had a bone marrow puncture, blast cells, which had not gone from the marrow to the veins, were discovered and led to a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
I was taken to Alicante hospital (which has great Haematologists and nurses in ward 7 D) by ambulance where I received another puncture and catheter to start immediately with chemotherapy and an intrathecal puncture... I couldn't take it in, it was as if I were in a cloud, it couldn't be happening to me: why me?
The doctors told me I had a 90% chance of recovering, that the treatment would last about two years, but I was oblivious, I had to sit two exams the following week... And then a doctor said to me: now you have different exams.
I gradually accepted the fact, I was about 50 km away from home, but there was always someone who came to visit me, thereby making my days happier: I used to laugh a lot with my friends. This was until my first period of isolation came around. On that day two carloads with my classmates from Gandía came but I was only able to see two of them for a short while...
Christmas was approaching and I wanted to spend it at home, but my immune system was not improving... finally I was able to; I was going home for Christmas on special leave and with no end of instructions, the catheter, should I run a temperature... (My mother, who never left me alone for a minute, took charge of everything; all she needed was to be connected to the blood drip). During those Christmas days I had to go back on a daily basis to control coagulation.
Raquel dressed up as Mario Bros
One of the days I went back I had to stay: while on leave I suffered a cerebral haemorrhage that affected my upper and lower limbs on my left side. I was really scared and I became very frightened, I spent the worst New Year's Eve of my life, the chemo cycles had to be postponed until it was reabsorbed and I was given lots of steroids. I spent a long time in hospital with no treatment, just waiting until I could continue to do so, and I felt really happy when I was allowed to go out (those were my short term plans: go for walks, go out into the streets, go and look at the sea).
When this complication ended, everything moved faster, it wasn't quite so tedious since I went into hospital for a few days to receive a cycle and then went back home; with methotrexate my stay lasted a little longer, but no longer than 15 days. There were days of joint pain, and days of anguish, and days of laughter and days of joking. I used to get very sad when, going in for a check up: I had to stay in hospital due to the distance from home. The truth of the matter is that I was becoming bitter, ha ha!
I remember when the doctor told me that it would be two years, two years versus a lifetime; at the time two years seemed like a lot and, when I was feeling ill, it seemed as if time didn't move on, that there was no improvement. But time does move on, yes it does, and once you start with hospital maintenance during the day, then it is different, you recover your routine, your habits.
Although, I didn't need a bone marrow transplant I have a brother who is compatible and a sister who is half compatible. The Corticosteroids have left me with necrosis in both hips and knees. It is now a little over 7 years since I have been in total remission, I took it easy to complete my last year of studies and final project and I have now been working for a few years.
That two year break was well worth it, after all.
I'd like to give you all much encouragement. You can do it too! No matter how gloomy one feels (I felt it). I was often a pessimist and all it did was make me feel worse."
Help people like Raquel by becoming a member of the cure for leukaemia and haematological malignacies, HERE. You will help us to continue our research so that one day these diseases will be 100% curable. With only a little you can do so much. Thank you!
Find out more about bone marrow donation, HERE