‘I had no idea my chest infection was leukemia’


BBC General

posted on 06/09/2022 08:21

(credit: Sophie Wheldon)

Four years ago, when Sophie Wheldon was still a student, she received news that was a “huge shock”: she found out she had leukemia.

Now, she advises people to recognize the symptoms of the disease.

Sophie, a 24-year-old Brit, says she believed a persistent chest infection, headaches and neck pain were caused by stress while studying.

But after seeking medical attention, she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018.

According to the National Cancer Institute (Inca), leukemia is a malignant disease of white blood cells, usually of unknown origin. Its main characteristic is the accumulation of diseased cells in the bone marrow, which replace normal blood cells.

According to the organization Leukaemia UK, from the United Kingdom, less than 1% of people can identify the symptoms of the disease, despite the fact that 28 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer in the country every day.

Worldwide, about 500,000 people were diagnosed with leukemia in 2020, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (World Cancer Research Fund., in literal translation).

Four of the most widely reported symptoms include fatigue, bruising, unusual bleeding and repeated infections, the charity notes.

Sophie Wheldon

Sophie Wheldon

Wheldon underwent a therapy called CAR-T

Leukaemia UK has teamed up with the organization Leukaemia Care to educate people about possible symptoms of the disease.

Both organizations stress that early diagnosis can save lives.

Wheldon was studying biology in 2018 when she became ill and her doctor advised her to go to the hospital after pointing out that the pain she was experiencing in her neck could be meningitis.

The young woman says she went through the emergency room and after being evaluated was immediately transferred to the “acute” patient room, where she underwent blood tests, a full body CT scan and “what I now know was a bone marrow biopsy.” bone”.

Shortly after the biopsy, her symptoms persisted and she returned to seek help. There, she learned that she was classified “as a terminal patient.”

She was later told that she might be eligible for a specific type of treatment: CAR-T therapy.

The process involves extracting part of a person’s immune system and white blood cells and reproducing them so that they recognize and target cancer cells specifically, Wheldon said.

Sophie Wheldon

Sophie Wheldon

Sophie is currently considered to be in cancer remission

The young woman claims that she was the first person in her region to receive the treatment. And she underwent it the day after her 21st birthday in June 2019.

“When they came back with [as células], they were in a small bag. That’s what would save my life,” he says. “It was a 20-second infusion – it’s crazy to think it’s possible.”

After undergoing regular blood tests, she learned in July 2019 that she was “in complete remission”, which she says was “literally the best day of her life”.

Her immune system has been affected by the treatment, but she says she is “thankful to be here” and urges people to be on the lookout for signs that could indicate the presence of the disease.

“The symptoms of leukemia can be so vague and easy to miss, but you always have to trust your gut,” he says.

– This text was published in https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-62802595

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