‘My cancer was mistaken for frozen shoulder – I didn’t think I’d have another Christmas’

Louise de Board, from Wimbledon, was 54 when she was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer which claims the lives of more than 3,000 people in the UK each year. Everything changed for the nurse and a counsellor in oncology when she started getting shooting pain in her shoulder, after hitting a curb while driving.

At first, her GP diagnosed her with frozen shoulder. Despite receiving physiotherapy and steroid injections, the pain worsened so much over the next six months that she became unable to move her arm.

Louise said: “I was in agony, it was so painful. I went to the GP who did all the treatments for frozen shoulder but nothing worked.”

The 54-year-old had some blood tests and a CT done but it wasn’t until she had an MRI, the doctors discovered myeloma in 2017. By the time the blood cancer was finally caught six months later, she had a broken arm, as well as a hole, known as a lesion.

Myeloma can seriously weaken your bones, which also happened in the nurse’s case. Fortunately, Louise, who is now 60, continues to defy the odds and she is now looking forward to celebrating yet another Christmas with her partner Bridget and dog Elton John.

She said: “There is a sense of relief at Christmas. You think, ‘Gosh I didn’t think I’d have another one’. Christmas is an important time for me and my partner Bridget.

“I don’t think we had a lot of hope initially. My partner and I are both nurses and when we knew that area of work, there was no treatment for myeloma.

“So when l was initially diagnosed l was totally shocked, anxious and terrified of dying. I absolutely thought I was about to die.

“I gave all my possessions away. I started to prepare. My friends and family were also very shocked, not many people seem to have heard of myeloma.”

To Louise’s surprise, myeloma treatment has advanced enormously which gave her a sense of optimism. She received treatment followed by a stem cell transplant in 2017.

Myeloma occurs in the bone marrow and currently affects over 24,000 people in the UK. Sadly, the cancer leaves many patients experiencing periods of remission following treatment, but the disease will inevitably return.

Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, myeloma is especially difficult to detect as symptoms, including back pain, easily broken bones, fatigue and recurring infection, are often put down to general ageing or minor conditions.

While it is incurable, the cancer is treatable in the majority of cases. Treatment is usually aimed at controlling the disease, relieving the complications and symptoms it causes, and extending and improving patients’ quality of life.

As myeloma is a relapsing-remitting type of cancer, Louise’s cancer sadly returned in 2020.

But, thanks to advances in treatment and access to new drugs in recent years – underlined by the tireless efforts of blood cancer charity Myeloma UK – Louise is back in remission.

With the festive season in full swing, Louise has now joined Myeloma UK’s Christmas Appeal in a bid to give more patients access to the latest, most effective treatments and a chance to spend more precious time with their loved ones.

Sarah Secombes, Head of Public Fundraising at blood cancer charity Myeloma UK, said: “Louise’s story shows how important it is for Myeloma UK to fund vital research into myeloma and to keep fighting for access to the latest treatments. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without people’s generous donations.

“Our goal is to make sure everyone affected by myeloma gets to live a full life like Louise, to bring them hope of a better future and give them a chance to spend more Christmases with their loved ones. We’re working towards that goal every day.”

As a patient, Louise believes that the work of Myeloma UK is “absolutely essential” and the only way that change will happen.

To make a donation to Myeloma UK’s Christmas Appeal, you can visit https://christmas.myeloma.org.uk/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *