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Woman Thought Exhaustion Came from Divorce Stress, But It Was Actually Cancer

Andrew Roberts 6 Nov 2018

With the day-to-day stresses we face, and the pressure that is on a typical person from life in general, knowing you're seriously ill can be a little tricky. Folks don't always have the time to head to the doctor and might not think they need too until it is too late.

Kate Stallard's story takes that to an extreme level, but luckily one that she can still tell the tale about.

Not only did her stress turn out to be acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) -- a rare form of blood cancer -- she just had days to live once she discovered she needed treatment.

In The Beginning

Kate's story begins when the 32-year-old from Worcestershire split with her husband of 18 months -- after being together for nearly a decade.

Stallard talked about the stress of the divorce and her attempts to counter her lack of energy, focusing on going to the gym instead of her new single life:

“It was a really stressful time, and very difficult to try and survive it all,” she said.

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Focus On The Future

She was also hopeful that she would be able to pick up, find someone else, and have a family:

“One of the things that helped get me through my divorce was that I’m still young, so there was time to meet someone else and start a family,”

But her exhaustion stayed around and she found it difficult to even get through simple tasks like walking the dog.

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Blaming The Divorce

Stallard still thought her exhaustion and low-energy was the stress from her divorce:

“For two months, I put it down to the emotional toll of the divorce,” she said.

This is understandable and something we'd all likely be guilty of at any moment. Nobody is prepared to experience the worst case scenario. But then Kate collapsed in her bathroom and was rushed to the hospital in the middle of a night for an emergency room visit:

“I got there about 1 am. They took one look at me and knew something was really wrong,” she said. “They examined all my bruises and took more bloods, which they sent off to be urgently tested.

“I went home to wait for the results, and around two hours later, my phone rang again with the doctor telling me I was seriously ill, and needed to get to A&E fast.”

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Shocking News

Once at the hospital, tests revealed that Stallard was not just experiencing exhaustion. She was actually battling cancer and had been for a while, to the point that doctors told her that she only had 48 hours to live without treatment:

“Where my immune system was so weakened by the cancer, I must have picked up other bugs, which had then developed into a type of sepsis as my body attacked itself,” said Kate. “I will never be able to thank the hospital staff enough. They acted so quickly. They saved my life.”

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Treatment Begins

The story itself began in the summer of 2016, with Kate's diagnosis coming in September. Throbbing headaches, exhaustion, and a heavy period were all attributed to stress, but they were really the signs of something worse.

A sad byproduct of the emergency nature of her condition was Stallard's inability to freeze her eggs. She needed treatment and had no time:

“I was told the type of chemotherapy drug I was to have can affect fertility. One of my first questions was, ‘Can I freeze my eggs?’ But doctors told me that the process takes a few weeks, and I wouldn’t survive it. It was devastating.”

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A Broken Heart

The effect of the treatment on her ability to have children was the toughest pill to swallow. Despite the life-saving treatment, she still needed time to grasp the reality:

“I held on to the hope that the chemotherapy may not do that much damage, but I have since gone for fertility tests and it wasn’t possible to harvest any eggs.

“That’s been one of the hardest parts, and most horrific side effects for me. I know adoption and so on is an option, and that I had to have the treatment to stay alive, but I still need to grieve.”

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The Fight

Kate went through three cycles of chemotherapy and was told she was in remission until February 2017. It was at this point when doctors found that the cancer had returned and she would need more treatments:

“It transpired the cancer had returned, and was in my central nervous system.”

This time Kate had 17 weeks of chemotherapy, where drugs were injected into her spinal fluid via a lumbar puncture, followed by a stem cell transplant.

By August 2017, Kate was once again told the cancer was in remission and on the road to feeling better. To ensure her health continues on a positive path, Stallard is being closely monitored and continues to have scans every three months.

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Raising Awareness

Stallard is now focused on her health and is working with Leukaemia Care to help raise awareness on the disease:

If you’re experiencing anything at all that doesn’t feel right – breathlessness, unexplained bruising, night sweats, bleeding or persistent infections – don’t be afraid to be open and honest with your doctor, and push for a blood test.”

It should be a call for everybody out there. Don't hesitate or assume that your health is in control if you're not feeling right. Get checked out.

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