‘Cancer treatment has just become part of my daily routine’

Emily Richardson, of Cleveleys, aged 20, who was diagnosed in 2016 with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
Emily Richardson, of Cleveleys, aged 20, who was diagnosed in 2016 with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Taking everything as it comes, day by day, is certainly Emily Richardson’s motto.

The 20-year-old, from Thornton, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia – a rare type of cancer affecting white blood cells – in May 2016, a couple of months after celebrating her 18th birthday.

She had been feeling unwell since February that year and in the April, developed a sore lump on her head which doctors thought was a cyst. Over the next few weeks, she became increasingly ill with sickness and heartburn, and was rushed into hospital on May 2016. Tests showed she had leukaemia.

Emily, who lives with her mum Joanne, dad Mark and brother Niall, has shared her story about her illness and experiences in an online blog.

Emily – who has undergone a stem cell transplant and still has weekly chemotherapy – said: “As strange as it may sound, day-to-day life is honestly pretty normal. Having treatment has just become part of my routine now. It’s normal for me now.

“Obviously, the diagnosis was a shock, but we are a couple of years down the line now.

“I do as much as I can, I go out, see my friends. I think people think when you have chemo you don’t ever go out and socialise and you just stay in and for some people, that might be the case.

“But I just want my life to be as normal as possible.

“My friends are understanding and supportive, sometimes I might be tired, or not feel like going out. And my family are amazing, they are so supportive.”

Emily underwent a stem cell transplant in October 2016, but it did not prove to be the cure they had hoped for.

She said: “The doctors basically said to me last year there’s not much they can do.

“I had the transplant which they thought would cure it, but unfortunately that back-fired.

“I will have to have this treatment for life, unless they find a new treatment.

“So now it’s just a case of carrying on and see how it goes.

“At the moment I’m not doing too bad. I’m going to hospital once a week for treatment. I actually feel really well within myself, I just sometimes get really tired.”

Emily’s blog details how she was diagnosed with the condition and her experiences, including treatment at The Christie Hospital – which she describes as an amazing place.

After she was first rushed into hospital, in May 2016, she was given the devastating news, within just 40 minutes of her blood being taken for tests.

She said: “I was told I had leukaemia, we didn’t know the type at that time, but that didn’t bother me. All I was bothered about at first was losing my hair.

“I did lose my hair with the treatment and when it started to grow back, it was like straw, so I just braved the shave and had really short hair like a boy.

“It’s grown back now and I’ve got hair extensions, so I’m back to having long hair.”

Emily’s blog talks about having to undergo bone marrow biopsies, blood tests and the side effect of chemo – which include sickness, headaches, breathlessness and fatigue.

She had been debating publishing a blog for a while, and after seeing how open and honest other bloggers were and with support from her cousin and best friend Lauren, she decided to start writing.

Emily said: “I’ve had a really good response to the blog, some really positive feedback.

“I’ve been contacted from people as far away as America. After I posted it on Twitter, lots more people saw it.

“I have had nothing but positivity and support since my diagnosis in May 2016 and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

Emily also talks in her blog about her stem cell transplant and how during a family wedding in Ireland, in March 2017, she had to be rushed back to the UK to hospital, suffering with pneumonia, and spent days in ICU.

This Friday, a charity night to support Emily and her treatment, organised by Prosecco Events UK, will take place at 6.30pm, the Briardene Hotel, Cleveleys, where Emily used to work. She is planning to attend. It will include live entertainment, a DJ, food and 20 different types of Prosecco, champagne and cocktails.

n You can follow Emily’s blog at www.emilyrich.home.blog