Alex Story

“I started feeling below par in April this year with a persistent cough. I couldn’t seem to shake it off, but I did numerous COVID tests, which kept coming back negative”, says Alex Deverill. Alex was a food and nutrition student from Kendal in Cumbria, explaining when he first noticed something wasn’t quite right with his health, and he released later from CBC tests what it is.

“Because of the pandemic, I had been staying back at my parents’ house in Cumbria. However, by the time I was set to return to university in Sheffield in May, I still wasn’t feeling any better. I was still coughing. I’d developed night sweats, which were getting progressively worse, and I’d also lost weight. It was noticeable as I wasn’t particularly massive to begin with.”

Alex’s family, however, became increasingly concerned. “After he moved back to Sheffield, we visited him at the end of June. We were worried that he wasn’t any better and was complaining of feeling tired all the time,” says Alex’s dad, Mark.

“In particular, his mum and I were concerned that some of his symptoms sounded similar to a friend. A friend who had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at a young age. We decided the best way to move this forward was to pay for a CBC private blood exam to rule out any sinister causes.

“I did the usual thing: I searched the Internet. When I read Melio’s information, I felt it best fit what we sought. I sent the information to Alex and left it up to him to take it forward.”

Booking a checkup

Alex decided to book Melio’s most comprehensive CBC blood test to cover as many issues as possible. He went to a Superdrug branch just a few minutes from where he lived to have the test done by a qualified phlebotomy clinician.

“It was convenient for me as the CBC Lab test only took 15-20 minutes. Then they sent it off for me,” says Alex. The blood was taken on Thursday, and I started receiving initial results online by Friday evening. They were all fine at first, but then, on Saturday morning, I got a call from Dr Joel McCay.He was one of Melio’s haematology advisors, and things took a bit more of a worrying turn.

“Joel said he had an idea of what might be going on. The Complete blood results showed a problem with my white blood cell count being too high. I needed to get to the nearest A&E department as quickly as possible. He gave me an explanatory letter he intended to send me to show them, prompting further examination.”

As luck would have it, Alex was back home in Kendal when the results came. His dad took him straight to Lancaster A&E. “It was a bit of a shock, but we didn’t have time to dwell on what it was,” says Mark. “I didn’t enjoy waiting in the hospital car park as Alex went in alone because of all the COVID restrictions.”

Trip to the A&E

Expecting a bit of a wait in A&E, Alex found the letter he’d taken from Melio’s medical lead, Dr. Kush Joshi, sped up the process. He was seen within half an hour. “It went much faster than I’d anticipated,” says Alex. Pretty soon, they’d taken more blood and put me in a private room to set me up with a cannula in case they needed to give me antibiotics.

“At this point, I thought it probably wasn’t serious. Then, the A&E doctor asked if anyone was with me. I said my dad was outside, so he went to get him. It was then that I pieced it together in my head that if there was something wrong with my blood, it was probably leukaemia, which is what it turned out to be.”

The consultant sent Alex’s  Complete blood Count samples to a neighbouring hospital in Barrow for a second opinion. After receiving the CBC results, the consultant broke the news to Alex and his father that they had indeed been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia.

The treatment journey

“We had many questions, but the consultant was really good. It explained what was happening and what the full treatment path would be, ” says Alex.

“They immediately started me on a chemotherapy tablet called hydroxycarbamide to get my white blood cell count down. They gave me two blood transfusions through the night to tackle my anaemia. By Monday, I was having a bone marrow biopsy, which wasn’t pleasant. Two days later, the CBC results came through, which showed that my illness was thankfully still in the very early stages.

“I ended up being in hospital for six days, which is nothing compared to what I thought I was facing. I was sent home to continue taking my treatment there as I didn’t need to be in the hospital anymore.

“My latest Complete Full Blood Count shows my levels are normal. Everything has gone back to where it should be. All my symptoms have gone, and I don’t have a cough anymore. I have not had night sweats for a couple of months now and have much more energy. I’m now on long-term treatment that suppresses the cancer cells. As long as I keep taking it, it should stay just as well as anyone else.”

Hindsight advice

With hindsight, Alex admits he knew something wasn’t right for a while. He says: “Because I started to feel unwell slowly, I didn’t notice, and my body seemed to compensate for it. My advice is if you can’t get to see a doctor and you know something isn’t right, don’t just ignore it and hope it will go away. The chances are it probably won’t.

“We were lucky to find out about Melio’s blood tests. I would be in a different situation if we’d waited to talk to the GP. Whatever you have, the earlier you discover it, the easier it is to treat, and the sooner things will return to normal.”

Mark agrees. Getting baseline information through a CBC Full Count and then a Complete diagnosis promptly made all the difference. At a time when it didn’t seem possible to get this kind of help, Melio helped us find the solution.