'I thought my strange symptoms were grief': Woman's shock diagnosis after mum's death

·3 min read
Laura McLoughlin was diagnosed with leukaemia after mistaking her symptoms as grief following the loss of her mother. (SWNS)
Laura McLoughlin was diagnosed with leukaemia after mistaking her symptoms for grief following the loss of her mother. (SWNS)

A woman has been diagnosed with leukaemia after mistaking her cancer symptoms for grief following the loss of her mother.

Laura McLoughlin, 39, from Wolverhampton, began experiencing pain in her left side, weight loss and bruising six months after the death of her mother in 2019.

The mum-of-two originally put the weight loss down to grieving and thought the bruises were caused by her clumsiness.

Doctors had also told her the pain in her left side was probably just a kidney infection.

So McLoughlin was left shocked when, following further hospital tests, she was diagnosed with the life-threatening condition.

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She now takes a daily chemotherapy tablet and may be on the treatment for the rest of her life as she continues to battle the disease.

"I had no idea I was so dangerously ill," she explains. 

"The pain in my left side turned out to be from my spleen, which was clogged with abnormal blood cells due to the leukaemia.

"I tried not to google my symptoms but that was impossible.

"I knew I had so many symptoms of leukaemia, but I tried to convince myself it was something like IBS [irritable bowel syndrome] and all would be OK."

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McLoughlin was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and takes a tablet known as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) which controls the disease.

Many patients with the condition can still have a near-normal to normal life expectancy and some can eventually achieve remission.

The six most common symptoms of leukaemia include: fatigue, bruising and bleeding, fever and night sweats, repeated infections, bone and joint pain, and feeling weak or breathless.

Due to the non-specific nature of these symptoms, they’re often mistaken for something more benign and can lead to late diagnoses.

McLoughlin was told she had chronic myeloid leukaemia on September 4, 2019, which also happens to be World Leukaemia Day.

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The Leukaemia Care charity are now trying raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease with their Spot Leukaemia campaign this month.

"The Spot Leukaemia campaign is hugely important," McLoughlin explains.

"Maybe if I'd seen more about the symptoms in the media and online, I would have gone to my GP much sooner.

"At diagnosis I had 100% leukaemia cells; by 12 months I had hit every treatment target and had just 0.048% of leukaemia cells left in my blood."

McLoughlin had lost her mother six months before experiencing pain in her left side, weight loss and bruising, which she put down to the loss. (SWNS)
McLoughlin had lost her mother six months before experiencing pain in her left side, weight loss and bruising, which she put down to the loss. (SWNS)

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Signs and symptoms of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)

According to the NHS, chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells and tends to progress slowly over many years.

Though it can occur at any age, it is most common in older adults around 60-65 years of age.

In CML, the spongy material inside some bones (bone marrow) produces too many myeloid cells – immature white blood cells that are not fully developed and do not work properly.

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