A TEENAGER who put his tiredness down to partying abroad too much was soon dealt a devastating blow.
Tom Hunt was 18 years old when he and his friends went on a trip around Europe after their A-levels, in 2018.
He told the Manchester Evening News: “From the July that year I had been feeling tired when I was going to work but then I’d just finished my A-levels and it was nothing you wouldn’t put down as normal.
“I went away with my mates and we were interrailing around Europe.
“In Budapest, I started feeling quite ill but powered on thinking I needed to stop drinking and sleep a bit more but in Prague I was just ridiculously ill.
“I normally sleep about seven or eight hours and I was sleeping 18 hours. I knew something wasn’t right.
“I was struggling to eat anything because my throat was so sore.”
Tom, from Hale, was feeling extremely tired despite the fact he was sleeping more than usual.
His lymph nodes (glands) on his neck were swollen, suggesting he was fighting an infection.
So Tom booked an early flight home and booked in to see his GP – also his friend’s dad – the next day.
The GP said it appeared to be a throat infection and prescribed antibiotics.
But there was another symptom that set alarm bells ringing.
Tom said: “I’d crossed my legs while I was on the train asleep for like three hours and I got a massive big lump.”
Tom mentioned the lump to a surgeon that he and his mum bumped into, and they told him to seek medical help straight away.
“So I emailed the doctor again on Tuesday night at about 11 o’clock and he emailed me straight back and said pop in again tomorrow I’m free at 11, see me then,” Tom said.
At the GP surgery, Tom said he was feeling better and his appetite had returned a little.
But the doctor said he “didn’t look right” and was “very pale”, and so decided to do some blood tests.
The blood tests confirmed that Tom had glandular fever; but that there could be something else more sinister going on.
The doctor called to tell Tom he urgently needed two blood transfusions and to go to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he had a number of tests done.
Tom was admitted on the Wednesday night and by the Friday, finally got some answers.
He was told he had leukaemia – a cancer of the blood cells of which there are many types.
With Tom’s type, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, is rare. Around 790 people are diagnosed in the UK each year.
It causes the bone marrow to release white blood cells before they are fully mature, meaning they are not as effective.
This makes a person more vulnerable to infection, with some of the key signs including repeated infections over a short time – and likely the reason Tom had glandular fever.
The number of red blood cells and platelets may also drop in response to the extra white blood cells, leading to tiredness, pale skin, nosebleeds, high temperature, night sweats, easily bruised skin and a purple rash.
Tom was moved to the Christie Hospital in south Manchester where he stayed for a month of intensive treatment.
Between then and April 2019, Tom had chemotherapy and had to undergo a number of platelet transfusions.
But he said he’s been in “morphological remission” since October/November 2018.
The now 22-year-old felt ready to go to university this year.
Having been diagnosed with cancer just one week after experiencing symptoms, Tom is now encouraging other people to get checked out as soon as possible if something doesn’t feel right.
What are the symptoms of leukaemia?
Leukemia symptoms vary, depending on the type of leukemia.
The Mayo Clinic says common leukemia signs and symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Frequent or severe infections
- Losing weight without trying
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Recurrent nosebleeds
- Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone pain or tenderness
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