"I was put in an ambulance that night ... I was petrified" 

When Hazel Phillips went to see her GP about an ear infection, she suspected something more serious was wrong because of her other symptoms. A blood test confirmed her worst fears: she had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Many years later, she's now in a successful, enjoyable job. She sometimes has anxiety but tries to put the experience behind her.

"When I was 11 years old I remember having an ear infection that lasted about four weeks. I also remember feeling really tired and faint when I was running in the playground, and seeing lines around everyone.

"One evening I came home with a really bad rash on my ankles, which we thought might be German measles. I was also getting out of breath walking up stairs.

"My mum took me to the doctor after school one evening to talk about the ear infection. My GP asked me some questions, and I told her about the other things that had been happening. She looked at me and said, 'We need to take you to hospital'.

"I had to go straight to Canterbury hospital that night to have a blood test. About two hours after the test they said, 'You've got leukaemia and you need to go to the Royal Marsden Hospital'. I was put in an ambulance and taken to the Marsden that night. I was petrified.

"I was in hospital for three months. I had quite a lot of chemotherapy but was lucky – there weren't too many adverse effects and I responded well to it.

"Some of my friends came to see me in hospital, which I found difficult. A lot of the time I couldn't stand up straight because of the lumbar punctures I'd had, and I'd put on weight because of the steroids.

"I then had about six weeks out of hospital, followed by another two weeks of very intensive chemotherapy. For the next year I was on chemotherapy.

"I've been in remission ever since, but it's not until five years after the treatment that you're told, 'OK, you only need to come back once a year now'.

"For the first few months I wasn't allowed to be in contact with many people as my immune system was low and I could get infections really easily. But I had great support from my family, and the charity Make-A-Wish Foundation gave me a pony when it was all over, which was lovely.

"Afterwards, I was absolutely fine, but three years ago I started to feel the effects of it emotionally. I suffer from anxiety quite a lot and I'm having counselling at the moment.

"I'm now working as an assistant marketing manager. I recently got a promotion and I'm really enjoying it."

Case study provided by Cancer Research UK.


Page last reviewed: 04/10/2016

Next review due: 04/10/2019