49-year-old mom’s cancer was initially rejected by her doctor – first symptoms
Cancer doesn’t always make a grand exit. Warning signs can often be subtle and not necessarily alarming. When 49-year-old Donna Hicks of Helensburgh, Argyle and Bute couldn’t get rid of the persistent symptoms that kept bothering her, she decided to see her GP. However, the doctor rejected her due to her age and busy schedule as a mother of three. Eventually, Donna was diagnosed with blood cancer.
The first warning signs for Donna, the mother of two sons aged nine and seven, and her young daughter at the time, were constant fatigue and back pain.
The mother of three said: “I had chronic fatigue that I couldn’t get rid of.
“He didn’t get up and I had very severe back pain, which was constantly attributed to the birth of children.
“I ended up going to a therapist because it was depressing and the fatigue was really affecting my life. the therapist was very dismissive.
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“He looked at his watch a couple of times and eventually said, ‘You’re in your 40s, you work full time, you have three kids, including a baby, and you wonder why you’re tired?’ basically sent me packaging.
“I sat in the car in the parking lot and cried for ages because I knew something was wrong.
“I didn’t feel like myself, and I was getting worse. It was terrible”.
In September 2014, at the age of 41, Donna was eventually diagnosed with myeloma, which describes an incurable form of blood cancer.
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Myeloma is considered the third most common form of blood cancer, but more than half of patients often have to wait more than five months for a diagnosis.
As with Donna, telltale signs include problems that are often mistaken for other causes, such as bone pain and fatigue. But nausea, constipation, weight loss, and recurring infections can also be symptoms of this condition.
Myeloma was diagnosed two weeks after Donna’s mom discovered she had lung cancer and died 10 weeks later.
Donna said: “I was stuck in this situation where I had a really young family and I lost my mom.
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“I just felt desperate. It was very difficult to see beyond this place of darkness because I was so scared.”
Donna also had to quit her job as a social work manager, which was “really important” to her.
“It was much more than just a job for me,” she said. “It’s a loss of identity.”
Mom was referred for a “one-off appointment” with Dr. Richard Sutar, a myeloma expert at Beatson University in Glasgow, but she has remained under his care ever since.
She underwent radiation therapy to heal her spinal fractures, followed by chemotherapy and two life-saving stem cell transplants in 2020 and 2021.
She is now in what is called a “good partial remission” of her illness and has nothing but praise for her treatment at Beatson.
Donna added: “Life will never be the same again, there is no doubt about it. I see that there is a volcano inside of me.
“At the moment it is dormant, but at some point in the future it is likely to flare up again.
“But while he’s inactive, I’m going to get busy and do my best.”
The mom-of-three is now sharing her cancer experience as charity Myeloma UK prepares for the second time tomorrow that the Beatson team will be presented with the Clinical Service Excellence Program (CSEP) award.
The award honors hospitals that go the extra mile to provide compassionate care.
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