Mum diagnosed with cancer after her children's doctor said she 'didn't look right'
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While she took her three young children to the doctors, working mum Laura Hendricks didn't expect to be getting a diagnosis for herself.
Speaking to Today.com, mum of three Laura explained how she took her little ones to the doctor after they developed bad colds, but found that the doctor was more concerned with her health instead. She said: "She really stopped me middle of the sentence and said, ‘What’s going on with you?’ and I was really taken aback that she was focusing on me, rather than the kids."
After trying to dismiss feeling under the weather as just coming down with the same bug her children had, the doctor continued to press. Laura explained: "She challenged me again and said, 'No, your colouring doesn’t look right. Let me see your hands'. She looked at them and said, 'I think you should have some blood work done."
Despite the doctor's concern, Laura dismissed it, thinking she just felt tired. Yet, after her mother urged her to get the tests, she booked an appointment to see her own doctor and get some blood tests. Initially, she was relieved after receiving an automated email that said everything was fine.
Yet the next day, everything changed.
That next day she had three missed calls from her doctor, including voicemails which urged her to go straight to her nearest emergency department. After speaking with her doctor, Laura was told she may need a blood transfusion but was initially told she might just have anaemia or 'something else'.
Yet once Laura attended her local ER she was given the devastating news. She recalled: "They said, 'You have leukemia, and you have an aggressive form of it called AML'. The whole world changed."
AML, otherwise known as acute myeloid leukemia, is a type of leukaemia and therefore a type of blood cancer. The word ‘acute’ in the name indicates that the disease may progress very quickly. The word myeloid refers to the type of blood cells affected – the myeloid cells. AML is the most common form of acute leukaemia. According to Leukaemia UK, it’s an aggressive type of leukaemia that causes symptoms quickly and progresses rapidly. AML is predominately diagnosed in adults, common in over 60 years of age.
After her diagnosis, Laura underwent months of tests and was admitted to hospital the same day as she attended the ER. She remembered: "Because it’s so aggressive, you’re admitted to the hospital that day to start treatment as quickly as possible. That was extremely overwhelming."
Laura's treatment included intense chemotherapy, but it was a stem cell transplant that eventually helped her get her AML under control. After her stem cell transplant, Hendricks went into remission and has now been cancer-free for the past five years.
Since her own fight with cancer, she and her husband Brock have founded Luminaries, which supports cancer survivors with self-care kits and teaches them other ways to thrive. The Luminaries self-care kits are delivered to survivors' homes with the goal of helping them build healthy habits to better take on the next part of their lives.
Hendricks says Luminaries provides people with support after cancer that many just do not have.
She explained: "I’m so grateful every day for the chance I was given to still be here, to be a mom, to be a sister, to be a wife, to be a daughter, to be a friend. I know how hard my survivorship journey was with those advantages. All I want to do is make survivorship easier for other people."