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Scientist whose cancer was dismissed as jet lag is in remission

Scientist whose cancer was initially dismissed as JET LAG during a holiday to Disney World is in remission after doctors warned she would have died within weeks without urgent chemotherapy

  • Claire Daly began to feel unwell days into the break in September 2015 
  • Went to a US hospital two weeks in complaining of extreme fatigue 
  • After being sent home, she went back and was diagnosed with leukaemia 
  • Had three rounds of chemo and a bone marrow transplant in the UK 
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A Briton claims her cancer was dismissed as jet lag after she started to feel unwell while on holiday in Disney World, Orlando. 

Claire Daly, 34, was just days into the three-week break with her husband Matt, 43, in September 2015 when she became fatigued and under the weather.

The environmental scientist, of Coventry, West Midlands, battled on for nearly two weeks before finally going to a Florida hospital, where she was told tiredness from the flight was probably to blame.  

But when her symptoms became intolerable and forced her to return to the hospital just days later, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and told she would have just weeks to live unless she started treatment immediately.

Mrs Daly was rushed back to the UK where she endured three rounds of grueling chemotherapy and was forced to have a bone marrow transplant in March 2016.   

Now in remission, Mrs Daly has even become close friends with her ‘DNA sister’, 22-year-old bone-marrow donor Imogen Riddett.

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Claire Daly claims her cancer was dismissed as jet lag after she started to feel unwell while on holiday in Disney World, Orlando. Pictured on the first day of the three-week break on September 13 2015, Mrs Daly started to feel tired and lethargic within days of the trip

After being sent home from hospital, Mrs Daly returned just days later when she became more fatigued. A blood test revealed her white blood cell count was abnormally a high – a sign of leukaemia. Mrs Daly is pictured receiving treatment in hospital in the UK on March 29 2016

After enduring three rounds of chemotherapy, which left her nauseous and caused her hair to fall out, Mrs Daly then had to have a bone marrow transplant to reboot her immune system. Now in remission, Mrs Daly is pictured at home in Coventry yesterday with her husband Matt

The couple decided to treat themselves to a break in Orlando after moving back to the UK from Australia, where they had been living for four years. 

Mr Daly, an events organiser, said: ‘We were both hugely excited by the holiday as 2015 had been a long year with our move back to the UK and it was nice to go somewhere where we knew we’d be able to rest and unwind.’ 

The pair, who married in 2012, hoped to have a relaxing three-week break, but Mrs Daly began to feel tired and lethargic shortly after landing, and started to struggle to get out of bed. 

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‘At first, I just shrugged it off as very bad jet lag,’ Mrs Daly said. ‘Matt had jet lag too but he got better and I didn’t.

‘I just felt really tired, I didn’t really have any appetite and had a lot of pain.’

Despite her symptoms, Mrs Daly decided to push on and try to enjoy the break.

‘I forced myself to go on rides and go for meals but I’d only have a couple of mouthfuls,’ she said. 

‘We’d go to Disneyland or Universal Studios but we’d have to go home after just a few hours because I felt so tired.’

Mrs Daly has since become close friends with her bone-marrow donor 22-year-old Imogen Riddett. The pair are pictured together in June this year after a meeting was arranged by the leukaemia charity Anthony Nolan. They call each other their ‘DNA sister’

Mrs Daly decided she had to see a doctor when she woke up one morning and could barely bring herself to get out of bed. 

‘They gave me painkillers and the doctor said that I was just under the weather coupled with the jet lag,’ she said. 

‘They told me to see how I was after the weekend. We went back on the Monday because I couldn’t get out of bed.’


Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer that starts in young white blood cells in the bone marrow.

AML affects around one in 200 men and one in 255 women in the UK at some point in their lives.

Approximately 19,500 new cases occur every year in the US. 

It is most often diagnosed in older people.

Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Frequent infections
  • Bruising or bleeding easily, including nosebleeds or heavy periods
  • Weight loss
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Pale skin

AML’s exact cause is unclear, however, risks include: 

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Radiation exposure
  • Previous chemotherapy
  • Certain blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Some immune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis

AML is usually treated via chemotherapy. A bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be required.

Source: Cancer Research UK 

Mrs Daly had a blood test, which revealed her white blood cell count was abnormally high – a key sign of leukaemia. 

‘I’d put it to the back of my mind, so to find out that it was cancer was horrendous,’ she said. 

‘It was very surreal for us both. There were no words for something like that.’

Despite the diagnosis being devastating, the couple were grateful Mrs Daly’s cancer had been caught early enough for her to stand a chance at beating it. 

‘When Claire was diagnosed, doctors told us her acute myeloid leukaemia had grown very fast,’ Mr Daley said. ‘They said she needed to start treatment as soon as possible otherwise she could only have had a few weeks.’ 

Mrs Daly flew home for chemo, which left her nauseous and caused her hair to fall out.  

‘After the first round I was told it hadn’t worked, but I tried to remain as upbeat as possible,’ she said.

After eventually entering remission in December 2015, Mrs Daly was then forced to have a bone marrow transplant to reboot her immune system.  

She even got to meet her donor in June 2018 after it was organised by the leukaeama charity Anthony Nolan. 

‘The first time I met her it was hugely emotional,’ Mrs Daly. ‘We thought we’d be there for a few hours but we there till 11pm in the evening, we had a lot to talk about. We’ve become very close.

‘It’s very strange knowing someone else is part of you in this way. We say we’re DNA sisters and she’s part of my family.

‘We always end up talking about it. It’s nice to talk about our difference experiences and from different perspectives.

‘It’s brought us all together, she gave me the gift of life. I wouldn’t be here without her. There’s nothing I could ever do to repay her.’ 

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