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Mum experienced ‘agonising chest pains’ prior to leukaemia diagnosis

Gary Lineker discusses son's leukaemia battle

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When 40-year-old Emma Leeming, from Wakefield, felt tired towards the end of the school term she thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until she started experiencing “agonising” chest pains that she was taken into hospital. Blood tests then revealed she had acute myeloid leukaemia – cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

She was also told she had myeloid sarcomas – a rare type of cancer that forms outside the bone marrow and blood – on her pancreas, uterus and liver.

Within just days she began her first course of chemotherapy and was told she would need a stem cell treatment.

Emma, now 41, said: “I started getting these agonising chest pains. It got so bad my husband called 999.

“Within just a few days, the results of a blood test showed I had acute myeloid leukaemia. I just couldn’t believe it.

“It’s hard to put into words how awful those next few months of treatment were. I had one of the strongest types of chemo there is.

“I was only 40 and healthy, and it left me feeling totally broken. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for someone older or more vulnerable than me.”

After three rounds of chemo followed by radiotherapy, Emma returned to hospital around Christmas time for a stem cell transplant.

“All I wanted was to be at home with my family, enjoying Christmas,” she recalled.

“Instead, after the transplant, I was alone in an isolation room. I felt like I’d run 100 marathons and was terrified of catching an infection – because I knew it could kill me.

“There was a week when I couldn’t eat at all because my mouth and throat were completely covered in ulcers.

“Looking back, I don’t know how I got through those days.”

One year on and Emma is preparing to spend a much-needed Christmas at home.

She said: “This time last year I was alone in hospital, unable to have visitors or even speak to my children by video call because seeing me was upsetting them too much.

“But my stem cell transplant has seen me go from strength to strength and only a year on I am living a full and active life.”

A stem cell transplant is often the only effective treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia, yet relapse rates following stem cell transplants are high and acute myeloid leukaemia is still one of the most deadly forms of blood cancer.

Now Emma, alongside charity Leukaemia UK, is calling for more research into better treatment options.

“If I had one wish this Christmas, it would be for less gruelling, less painful leukaemia treatments to be discovered,” she added.

“I’m so happy to be able to tell you that my cancer is in remission. The transplant worked as well as anyone could have expected.

“But we have to keep funding research to find better, kinder ways to treat leukaemia.”

Other common symptoms of leukaemia include:

  • Skin looking pale or “washed out”
  • Tiredness
  • Breathlessness
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Frequent infections
  • High temperature and fever
  • Night sweats
  • Unusual and frequent bleeding, such as bleeding gums or nosebleeds
  • Easily bruised skin
  • Flat red or purple spots on the skin
  • Bone and joint pain
  • A feeling of fullness or discomfort in your tummy
  • Swollen glands in your neck, armpit or groin that may be sore when you touch them.

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