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King’s Lynn man Mathew Anderson looking to raise awareness of Leukaemia Care charity message

A man is looking to raise awareness about leukaemia while continuing his own brave battle against cancer.

Mathew Anderson, who lives in Lynn, was 39-years-old when he went to hospital after a football injury. While there, he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia – which affects white blood cells and tends to progress slowly over many years.

Now, having undergone various types of treatment, he is looking to spread the word about the Spot Leukaemia campaign run by the Leukaemia Care charity.

Mathew is now trying to raise awareness of the disease
Mathew is now trying to raise awareness of the disease

“I have no idea how long I had leukaemia before being diagnosed and previously had no idea that it was even a cancer,” he said.

“I probably wouldn’t have consulted a doctor, had my wife not pushed me into it. It’s so vital that we push forward with raising awareness about this disease.”

Around a year before his diagnosis, Mathew – who is married with two children – was overweight and was struggling to cope mentally after losing his best friend to suicide.

Mathew still manages his son's under-nine football team
Mathew still manages his son's under-nine football team

Despite never having been a runner, he decided to get back in shape for a 10km run to raise money in his friend’s memory. He started weekly training and his weight started to “drop off rapidly” – and at the time, he put this down to the extra exercise.

“Feeling several stone lighter, I was in the best shape of my life and felt great,” Mathew said.

“I assumed that any fatigue I was experiencing was down to my job as a shift worker – tiredness had always gone hand in hand with my work, so I didn’t think anything of it.”

Two weeks before his diagnosis, he was playing football when he was hit hard in the chest by the ball. The pain was “excruciating” and he was convinced that he had broken a rib.

Mathew Anderson is currently battling leukaemia
Mathew Anderson is currently battling leukaemia

However, he went to work that night and carried on as usual – but after two weeks of pain, his wife was fed up with hearing him complain about it and urged him to go to A&E.

“She was afraid I might be having a heart attack. It was her nagging that probably saved my life,” Mathew said.

After various scans at the hospital, doctors could find nothing wrong because although he was in pain when breathing, there was no bruising on his chest. However, just before he was discharged, a nurse suggested he have some routine blood tests done.

“At that point, it became clear something was definitely not right,” Mathew said.

“She struggled to get blood from my arm and when she pulled the needle out, my blood was like sticky jam.”

A few hours later, his name was called by a nurse. He recognised her as a girl he had known from school, and was aware that she was now a cancer nurse.

Despite this, when the doctor told him about the leukaemia, he was convinced that there had been a mistake.

That night, his white blood cell count was so high that he was put on chemotherapy within 15 minutes. He then called his financial advisor in a bid to make sure his wife and children would be looked after if he died.

He stayed in hospital for a week and for the next six weeks after that, he went in every second day. Once his white blood cell count was low enough, he started on Imatinib – initially bring on “horrific” side effects including headaches, sweats, joint pain and kidney problems.

“A couple of weeks ago and just over a year on from my diagnosis, a routine blood test showed that my white blood cells are high again, so I am now on another drug and suffering similar side effects again,” Mathew added.

“I’ve also had another blast of chemo and am waiting with fingers crossed for it all to take hold. If this doesn’t work, I will be looking at another drug or possibly a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

“I am keeping my spirits up and am continuing to manage my son’s under-nine football team.”

This September, Leukaemia Care is raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Members have urged people to make sure they know what to look out for by visiting www.leukaemiacare.org.uk

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