Thursday, 3 April 2014

Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia (APL) - Symptoms

Something I realised the other day was that I hadn't actually done a post about the signs and symptoms that come along with having Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia, (which is shortened to APL or APML... let's be honest I don't know if anyone can actually pronounce the full name, haha!)

Before I was admitted into hospital last year in June, all I'd experienced was feeling completely run down and generally feeling rather rubbish. I'd been helping out the art teacher at the school where my Mum works, so I'd be up in art all morning breaking for lunch and then back up in the afternoon and finishing when my Mum was ready to go home. It was your average school day. But thinking back, even standing for too long caused me to feel worn out and by the end of the day I was completely drained. Mother nature was doing her monthly rounds and I was losing a lot more blood than usual, but I honestly didn't think anything of it. Standing for long periods of time was causing me to feel breathless and being on my feet for just one school day was completely wearing me out. Looking back, I probably should have realised something was wrong, but I didn't. I'd only just finished my second year at uni and had pulled several all nighters to get my work completed for my portfolio deadline, so I assumed I was over tired. I'd also had a persistent headache/ sore throat, which is why I was sent to A&E to begin with because the doctor thought it was a nasty case of tonsillitis.

I was given a lot of information and booklets to read in hospital once I'd been diagnosed and admitted. Once I'd read the basics, (I didn't read all of it and I still haven't. To me cancer was cancer and I didn't really want to know how bad it was, which is also why I never asked many questions.) But once I had read the basics, it all started to fall into place and I understood.

'The signs and symptoms seen most often in APL are:

Anaemia (lack of haemoglobin), causing:
- Fatigue and limited capacity for exercise.
- Breathlessness on exertion.

Low platelet counts and low clotting factors, causing:
- Bruising within the skin.
- Bleeding from mucous membranes (e.g. gums), from wounds or from the gut.
- Bleeding into the brain.

Low (normal) white cell counts, high numbers of abnormal cells and high metabolic rate, causing:
- Persistent infections.
- Fever - This is often present even in the absence of clear signs of infection.'

These are the main signs and symptoms printed out in my little APL booklet from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and when I read them I did do the whole "Oh yeah, that makes sense now" for the majority of the list. I had a lot of unexplained bruises on my legs that wouldn't go away, I'd been feeling overly tired doing the slightest thing, spitting up blood after brushing my teeth.. and my Mum had thrown a packet of sweets at me in the car, (I was supposed to catch them, but they'd hit me smack bang on the head which she actually found really funny, ha!) The corner of the packet had cut me, only the tiniest amount, but it took at least 20 minutes for it to stop bleeding completely.

Obviously, there is so much information online nowadays for symptoms and signs and all of that, but this is what it says in my little booklet, which is from a registered charity, so it is a reliable source. I'd always say though if you're concerned about anything, definitely go and get it checked out by your doctor.

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