Chanelle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia after a blood vessel burst in her eye. She was treated with monoclonal antibodies interferon then Glivec. She is in remission but is considering stopping the Glivec in order to become pregnant.
Chanelle was home from university for the holidays and had just started wearing contact lenses when she noticed a blind spot in her vision. The optician said she had not damaged her eye but that a blood vessel had burst in the back of it and she should go immediately to Accident & Emergency. Her eye was examined at the hospital and a blood test taken, which showed that her blood was unusually thick and sticky. She was told she had leukaemia and that she needed a bone marrow biopsy to be taken immediately. The following day she was sent to another hospital to have some of her white blood cells removed and when she got home her parents gave her some information leaflets, which is when she learned that leukaemia was a type of cancer.
Initially the only treatment she had was a drug to reduce her white cell blood count. She decided that regardless of what further treatment she was going to have she wanted to return to university, which was a long way from her parental home. She was started on injections of interferon alpha (a monoclonal antibody), which would lengthen her life while a bone marrow donor was sought so she could have a potentially life-saving transplant. However, no suitable donor was identified and her doctors initially said they didn’t know what else they could do for her. During this time she found it difficult to sustain some of her previous friendships at university because her priorities had changed and some young people didn’t know how to react to her.
After a few months her consultant invited her to take part in a trial that was comparing a new monoclonal antibody treatment in tablet form called Glivec (imatinib) with the interferon that she was already taking. She agreed but was disappointed to be randomly allocated the interferon. After a while she developed an intolerance to the interferon and was delighted to be switched to Glivec, after which she began to feel better. The down side of Glivec was, however, that she wouldn’t be able to conceive a child while she was taking it, which was not something she was immediately planning but nevertheless was a concern for the future.
After a while she was told she was in remission and eight years later continues to take Glivec daily. She and her partner are now wanting to start a family for which she will have to come off the treatment and it is not known whether she will be able to sustain her remission once off the Glivec.