Suffolk

Living a happy life with leukaemia

Rob and kids Image copyright Bloodwise
Image caption Rob White says living with the condition has changed his perspective on life

A father-of-three with leukaemia wants to reassure other patients it is possible to lead an "incredibly happy" life with the disease.

Rob White was 22 when he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), a type of blood cancer.

Now aged 30, he takes daily medication to keep it under control.

"You feel like you've been given a death sentence when you are diagnosed but it's not always the case," Mr White said.

Image copyright Bloodwise
Image caption Rob was diagnosed eight years ago when his wife Lauren persuaded him to go to the doctor

Mr White, who lives in Brantham in Suffolk, noticed a large bruise on his leg after playing rugby in 2011.

But he was reluctant to go to the doctors until he was persuaded to by his then-fiancée, and now wife, Lauren.

"I had just finished university and started my first proper job," he said.

"I had some night sweats and lost some weight, but thought it was because I was drinking less, exercising more and working longer hours."

Blood tests revealed his bone marrow was producing too many white blood cells.

Mr White said: "The first question I asked the consultant was 'am I going to die?'

"My doctor told me there were some fantastic new drugs available that could help me live a normal life, but I just didn't know whether to believe it."

Image copyright Bloodwise
Image caption Mr White has a four-year-old daughter Amelia and three-year-old twin boys Alexander and Oliver

Mr White's treatment was delayed for a week so he could preserve some sperm.

The subsequent month-long course of oral chemotherapy was so potent he was advised not to touch the tablets.

He has been taking drugs, called tyrosine kinase inhibitors, ever since.

"I want newly diagnosed people to realise that, if it is caught early enough, something which used to be fatal has now become a manageable condition," he said.

"I did go through a difficult time a few years back when the enormity of living with cancer hit me and I needed some help to deal with it mentally, but I am in a really good place now."

Image copyright Bloodwise
Image caption Mr White is running the London Marathon next year for the charity Bloodwise

Over the past year, Mr White has very gradually reduced his medication with the help of doctors and will reduce it further next year if his blood results remain stable.

"Living with leukaemia has given me a whole new perspective on life and I really appreciate what I have got," he said.

"When you've been in a position where you thought you were going to die, it really makes you realise what's important in life."


Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)

  • Every year, almost 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with leukaemia, a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells and bone marrow
  • CML is one of the most common types and develops slowly
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors can help keep CML under control, although some people suffer side effects
  • A clinical trial last year funded by the charity Bloodwise looked at whether some patients could safely reduce their dosage and come off the treatment

Source: Bloodwise


Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email eastofenglandnews@bbc.co.uk

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites