Mum, 22, told by doctors she had tonsillitis before discovering it was actually leukaemia using Google
Chloe-Leigh Todd, 22, was ‘weeks away from death’ when she was finally diagnosed with leukemia
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Chloe-Leigh Todd, 22, started experiencing a sore throat and general illness, and one month later had a telephone appointment with her GP.
Chloe was told she had tonsillitis but decided to Google her symptoms - which included vomiting, night sweats, and weight loss - and realised she was suffering from textbook signs of leukaemia. After explaining this, she managed to have a face-to-face appointment where she went for a blood test.
Her results came back abnormal and she went straight to the hospital where she was told she had leukaemia. But she is now cancer-free and is no longer having treatment, although still suffers with some side effects.
‘I thought I was going to die’
The stay-at-home mum from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear said: “Everyone knows their own body and I just knew it was something serious. The doctors were putting it down to other things but I was adamant they were wrong.
“I Googled my symptoms - night sweats, fatigue, bruising and so on - and leukemia came up as the first search result. I checked and saw I had every symptom on the whole website - everyone had thought I was crazy when I said it but I knew I wasn’t.
“When the doctor confirmed it, I thought I was going to die. I was happy to have the diagnosis but I went numb, hearing it is a big difference.
“The doctors told my mum in a different room, she broke down - I could hear my mum screaming.”
Chloe was ‘weeks from death’
In June 2020, after being told she had tonsillitis, Chloe managed to get herself a face-to-face appointment with a doctor because she thought they were wrong. The mum-of-one had been suffering from a sore throat, night sweats, vomiting and weight loss since February and was getting concerned so searched online for answers.
After having a blood test, Chloe was called by the doctors and told her results were abnormal and called into the hospital where she was told she had leukaemia and was “weeks away from death”. The following day Chloe was sent to the Newcastle Freeman Hospital to start treatment.
She said: “I had a bone marrow biopsy and told I was weeks away from death. The cancer was everywhere in my blood. Doctors told me they didn’t know if chemotherapy would help but they were willing to give it a try.”
Chloe endured six rounds of chemotherapy which eradicated most of the cancer, leaving her more optimistic. She added: “Looking back now I am numb to it - everything I was being told is a blur.
“I was looking at the world so differently asking ‘why me, what have I done to deserve this.’ The hardest part of it all is I thought I might not be here to watch my son grow up.”
Finding a bone marrow donor
In September 2020, Chloe was put on the Anthony Nolan register in search for a bone marrow donor. Straight away the hospital found a 100% match in a 27-year-old man, and she had the transplant in October of that year.
The transplant is done by transferring stem cells from one person to another, replacing damaged blood cells with healthy ones. After a successful operation, Chloe underwent another bone marrow biopsy to make sure her new cells had worked - later receiving the news she was cancer free.
She explained: “When I received the news I picked up my son and cuddled him to tight. It was amazing to know it had all gone, it was the best day ever. I rang the bell in March 2021, It is an amazing feeling. I had my little boy in my arms with me.”
‘It is a bittersweet situation’
Despite being cancer-free, Chloe is now suffering from Graft vs Host disease which happens when particular types of white blood cells in the donated stem cells or bone marrow attack your own body cells. She said: “No matter what I am going through I am always positive and have a smile on my face. No matter how ill I am I will put my child first.
“I spoke to my donor in March 2023, I had butterflies in my stomach. We were talking like we have known each other my whole life. We have this connection that nobody will be able to understand.
“We will always have that bond, I am still here because of him. I feel so grateful and thankful. I would rather go through this then not be here at all. It is a bittersweet situation - I am alive to tell my story.”
What are leukemia symptoms to watch out for?
- skin looking pale or "washed out"
- losing weight without trying
- frequent infections
- having a high temperature, and feeling hot or shivery (fever)
- night sweats
- easily bruised skin