Alex’s Story – How a General Exam Helped Diagnose My Leukemia

“I started feeling below par in April this year with a persistent cough that I couldn’t shake off. I did numerous COVID exams, but they kept coming back negative”, says Alex Deverill, a food and nutrition student from Kendal in Cumbria. He got a Complete Blood Count Test because he explained how he noticed something wasn’t quite right with his health.

“I’d been staying back at my parents’ house in Cumbria because of the pandemic. 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 and developing night sweats, which were progressively worsening. I decided to get an anaemia blood test as I had also lost weight – which was noticeable as I wasn’t particularly massive.

Alex’s family, however, were getting increasingly concerned. the anaemia blood test showed some indications, and I needed further exams. “After he moved back to Sheffield, we visited him at the end of June. We were worried that he wasn’t getting any better. He was complaining of feeling tired all the time”, says Alex’s dad Mark. 

“In particular, his mum and I were concerned. Some of his symptoms sounded similar to a friend who had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at a young age. The best way to move this forward was to pay for a private complete blood count test to rule out any sinister causes.

“I did the usual thing of searching on the Internet. And I read up on Melio’s information and felt it best fit what we sought. So, I took the information to Alex and l, leaving him to take it forward.”

Booking the test

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

“It was convenient for me as the complete blood count test only took 15-20 minutes. Afterwards, they sent it off for me”, says Alex. “They took the blood on Thursday. I got my initial results back online by Friday evening. The results were fine initially, but on Saturday morning, I received a call from one of Melio’s haematology advisors, Dr Joel McCay. Things took a bit of a worrying turn.

“Joel said he had an idea of what might be going on. The anaemia blood test results showed a problem with my white cell count being too high. I needed to get to the nearest A&E department as quickly as possible. He sent me an explanatory letter to show them to get it checked out further.”

As luck would have it

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

Expecting a bit of a wait in A&E, Alex found that the letter from Melio’s medical lead, Dr Kush Joshi, he’d taken with him sped up the process and he was seen within half an hour. “It went a lot faster than I’d anticipated,” says Alex, and pretty soon, they’d taken more samples 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 still thought it probably wasn’t too serious, but then the A&E doctor asked if anyone was with me. I said my dad was outside, so he went to get him. 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 after getting a CBC test and a range of cancer exams.”

After sending Alex’s samples to a neighbouring hospital in Barrow for a second opinion, the consultant broke the news to Alex and his father. The diagnosis was indeed chronic myeloid leukaemia.

The treatment journey

“Of course, we had lots of questions. The consultant was really good. He explained what was happening and what the full treatment path would say, “Alex.

“They immediately started me on a chemotherapy tablet called hydroxycarbamide to get my white cell count down. They also gave me two 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 results of that came through, and my Complete Blood Count Test showed that my illness was thankfully still in the very early stages.

“I ended up being in hospital for six days, which in the scheme of things it’s 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 blood count tests show 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 few months now and have more energy. I’m now on long-term treatment, which suppresses the cancer cells as long as I keep taking it.”

Hindsight advice

In 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. 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 that we found out about Melio’s Complete Blood Count blood tests. If we’d waited to talk to the GP about this,nk I would be in a very different situation from where I am now. Whatever you have, the earlier you discover it the e, the easier it is to treat and t, and the sooner things will return to normal.” 

Mark agrees: “Getting some baseline information through a Complete Blood Count test and then a timely diagnosis made all the difference. At a time when it didn’t seem possible to access this kind of help through the usual medical channels, Melio helped us get the Anaemia Blood test solution.”