Just seven months ago in March 2023, Rob Pope was a fit guy who looked forward to swimming, running and mountain biking in his free time, before Covid struck him down. He looked after his health and ate well to maintain his active lifestyle.
He began to feel more and more tired as the months went on, which prompted a trip to his local GP. His lung had filled with fluid to the extent that the left lung had completely collapsed at one stage.
Rob was told three times by his GP that he had long Covid along with a chest infection, but he knew something was wrong.
“I could tell something was wrong, but leukaemia was nowhere near my thoughts – all my concerns revolved around my breathing / lungs.”
Following further conversations with his GP, Rob was prescribed to have a general blood test, but when this came back inconclusive, further tests were ordered to get to the root of the issue – it was here that the Doctors found the cause of Rob’s tiredness and breathlessness. He was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (CLL) before being upgraded to T- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) – a rare type that effects about 12 people per year in my age group (45 – 50).
“I took me completely by surprise. I was just in fear and shock – I was very scared – its took a while to get past “am I going to die?”. I was sent to A&E on May 22nd – from that date on my freedom was removed and life changed for ever – I stayed initially in hospital for around 6 weeks before being allowed a bit of freedom.”
He was allowed home as part of Block 2 of his Chemotherapy treatment but contracted Neutropenic Sepsis which was “frankly horrible – and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.”
Upon being diagnosed initially at A&E, Rob required an urgent chest drain (over 4.5 litres were removed from his lungs – including blood as he was bleeding internally following the chest drain). He was then moved to The Christie in Manchester (one of the 15 Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) Centres that the charity funds) for specialist treatment and straight into stabilisation before starting his initial course of Chemotherapy – He was starting Chemotherapy within days of his initial diagnosis.
“I was in A&E for 36 hours before I was admitted – the care from the nurses and doctors was rushed but caring – once on the ward and then moved to The Christie, the treatment was much more specialised and full of empathy, time and care. They understand the fear and ups and downs of being treated and in hospital for extended periods.”
Prior to 22nd May, Rob had only spent a handful of nights in hospital when he was a child having his tonsils out – the whole experience as a patient was very alien.
“I’d always being a visitor glad to leave to go home – being the visited rather than the visitor didn’t always put me in a good place.”
“The leukaemia put a complete stop on my life. I am trying hard to think of something positive but there is nothing – fundamentally its totally and utterly horrible – not just for me but my wife, kids, family friends. It’s sent a tidal wave of shock round my extended friends and network.
“What I have learnt throughout the process is you have no idea how resilient you are – take every day as it comes and most importantly be positive – thinking you will get through this is more than half the battle.”