MyLastingImpression Shelley Sloan
What would go through your mind if you were faced with a blood cancer diagnosis?
Would you face your diagnosis with fear… or hope?
Shelley Sloan, 37, from East Belfast, has been with her husband Neil since they were teenagers. They got married six years ago, and soon after found out they were expecting.
Thrilled, they booked their first pregnancy scan and on arrival were shocked to discover they weren’t having just one baby, but two! Shelley shared the news with her delighted friends and family – it was the best, most surreal, surprise they could have hoped for.
The next morning, Shelley answered a call from the hospital – she had to return immediately for further blood tests. She had a fear of giving blood and assumed they hadn’t taken enough the first time. She went alone as her husband was at work.
Once there Shelley began a series of tests. At one point she was asked if she would like to call her husband but she didn’t see the need. As time passed, she became increasingly worried. Was something wrong with her babies? She asked the doctors what was going on.
That afternoon, Shelley was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. She recalls driving herself home in the rain from the hospital but looking back, it wasn’t raining at all. She was crying.
The next few weeks were a blur. There was uncertainty over whether Shelley should undergo treatment while pregnant, but she was adamant she was going to have her babies. From the moment she was told she had blood cancer, all she could focus on was meeting them.
Shelley began treatment, but made the decision not to tell people she had blood cancer – instead she chose to focus on the pregnancy. She was tired, often unwell, but driven by the desire to meet her twins.
On July 21st, 2013, Shelley naturally delivered two, healthy, happy babies. Saul was born first, and 40 minutes later, Sadie followed. Shelley’s biggest hope throughout her treatment had come true – she got to meet her children. And they were perfect. It was the best night of her life.
As soon as Saul and Sadie were born, Shelley began treatment for Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. She was able to take her medication at home and still care for her newborns – it is medication which she will be on for life but research has changed this once potentially fatal cancer into a manageable illness.
Now, she is the proud mum of two energetic, adorable, enthusiastic, feisty children. She is lucky enough to work in the nursery school Saul and Sadie attend and she gets to spend most days with them. They are who made Shelley determined to fight blood cancer.
For the 99 people diagnosed with blood cancer every month in Northern Ireland, they know the fear that comes with this news – will my family cope without me? Who will take care of my pets if I’m not here? Will I ever meet my babies?
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.