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Sarah was diagnosed with a blood cancer called leukaemia. The following are all Sarah’s words, shared with the Leukaemia Foundation to help raise awareness of blood cancer during September’s Blood Cancer Awareness Month 2019. You can share your story, too, by clicking here.

I was 14 years and 9 months in May 1998 when I was diagnosed with CML [Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia].

I knew something wasn’t right but at that age, I didn’t really know my body. I was a really active, sporty child and I found myself sitting on the couch a lot, my mum now called me her little ‘couch potato’ but I had grown so much so quickly that we put it down to that.

I was so tired. Then there were the lumps and bruises coming up on my skin, I was misdiagnosed twice until I had a bruised palm from playing netball that just wouldn’t heal, and a huge bruise on the back of my leg and on my left hip which I knew I hadn’t bumped to cause.

At this point my mum took me to visit my childhood doctor and he immediately felt my spleen. He sent me straight over for bloods.

It was after I had done all of these strange blood tests that were marked as urgent and I remember watching my mum as she was telling my dad about it and they both looked over at me – the look on their faces was something I hadn’t seen before. I will never forget that look. They knew something was really wrong.

That afternoon I was admitted to the Wesley Hospital where I stayed for the next week until I was stabilised. I remember the first morning I woke up in hospital and it was all so surreal, I remember just spelling the word over and over in my head , l-e-u-k-a-e-m-i-a. What a horrible word.

I went home and went back to school and truthfully, I had never felt better.

The chemo tablets were doing what they needed to and I was back being a teenage girl, playing sport and having fun. But I knew what was ahead of me.

I was diagnosed 2 years before Gleevec – the now daily tablet for CML – became available, so the only option for long term survival for me was a bone marrow transplant.

I was the youngest of four children and surprisingly, none of us were a match during tissue typing.

I had a bone marrow transplant in Feb ‘99 at the RBH with an unrelated donor. I don’t know a lot about my donor, just that he was a 50 year old male from Victoria, but he is a superhero to me. What a wonderful human being.

I am so thankful and I count my blessings everyday that I am here and healthy 20 years later. The impact of having a bone marrow transplant is massive. It did cure me of my CML and I will forever be grateful.

The total body chemotherapy and radiation treatment I underwent though certainly has had its challenges long term in regards to the effects it has had on my body. Thyroid damage and infertility are the main ones.

With a lot of medical help, and the help of my wonderful big sister, (and of course my amazing husband 😊) I became pregnant in March 2012 and I became a mum in October 2012. I had a beautiful little girl.

I do a lot of thinking now about the younger me that when diagnosed, I didn’t want the information. I didn’t want to know about CML and what lay ahead. And I realise now as a parent how very difficult it must have been for my mum and dad. They are truly amazing, wonderful people and I know my mum in particular was so grateful to the Leukaemia Foundation and particularly our wonderful friend, Maryanne for all of their support and information that she so much needed.

I do believe as the carer of someone you love undergoing blood cancer, it is just as horrible if not more so than the person that is diagnosed.

And to have support available for both the patient and the carer from people that really understand, is so appreciated.

From diagnosis and throughout my treatment, before my feet would hit the floor of a morning, George Michael’s ‘Faith’ would play in my head. Whenever I hear that song now, I know how lucky I am to be here to listen to it.

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