MyLastingImpression Graeme Taylor
What would go through your mind if you were faced with a blood cancer diagnosis?
Would you face your diagnosis with fear… or hope?
Graeme Taylor, from Ballygowan, Co. Down loved keeping fit, regularly playing rugby, walking and training with weights in the gym.
In 2016, aged 29, Graeme’s life was good. He’d just started a new job, booked a holiday to Las Vegas for his wife’s birthday and was looking forward to starting back playing rugby after an ankle injury.
As his holiday approached, Graeme visited his doctor with a chest infection and received a course of antibiotics which brought him out in a facial rash, just days before flying out to the USA. A return visit to his doctor discovered a lump on his neck.
Graeme was referred to a specialist at the Ulster Independent Clinic who carried out scans and a biopsy and confirmed his worst thoughts, he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
As he drove away from the hospital, the news began to sink in, he phoned his wife and mum to tell them it wasn’t as minor as he first thought.
As appointments went on his diagnosis got progressively worse. It went from a lump in his neck to a scan showing a large lump in his chest area, behind his sternum, the size of his fist and his consultant was worried it had the possibility of working its way lower down closer to vital organs.
Graeme’s biggest worry was receiving chemo. He didn’t want to look like someone going through cancer treatment, how chemo would make him feel, and the potential of losing his hair. Suddenly, his plans of celebrating his upcoming thirtieth birthday and life plan of having kids went to the back of his mind as he grappled with the thought of going through an intensive course of treatment.
When Graeme arrived home from his first chemo session, he received the most amazing news that his wife was pregnant. This was of enormous benefit to him as he credits this as of great mental support through his treatment.
As his treatment continued, Graeme tried to get on with life as best he could. Good days and bad days ensued, taking days off work for treatment. When colleagues asked if he enjoyed his day off or when he went to spectate at his local rugby club, he had to inform them of his condition as he began to show signs of nausea and bloating due to steroids and the thinning of his hair and beard.
During his treatment Graeme was able to continue to work but reduced his working pattern to three days a week as he suffered very badly with nausea directly after treatment and continues to be impacted with anticipatory nausea.
Now that Graeme’s treatment is complete and he has just received the all-clear, his baby boy has arrived into the world he admits his son is the best gift he has been given. He’s so much to look forward to in the future with his family and of course, his rugby career, switching from the side lines back on to the pitch.
For the 99 people diagnosed with blood cancer every month in Northern Ireland, they know the fear that comes with this news – will I live to see my daughter get married? Who will take care of my pets if I’m not here? Will I be able to run another marathon?
But there is hope.
Thanks to scientists based here in Belfast, funded by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, three out of four people in Northern Ireland diagnosed with blood cancer survive.
But for that one in four there’s still work to be done.
Please share our message far and wide. With your help, we can fund research to help find a cure for blood cancer.