Victoria O’ Meade from Tallaght in Co. Dublin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia- a type of blood cancer, aged only 22. When Victoria first received her devastating diagnosis, she was told she had only months to live. She is now 10 years in remission and tells her story of hope!
“It all started with a pain in my hip, then I got various infections and flus, bruising, night sweats, weight loss and I was constantly tired. I was misdiagnosed with arthritis and put on several drugs for months. I was bed-bound and it seemed nothing was helping. A blood check detected a huge drop in my bloods, so they referred me for a bone marrow test. The next day I was told I had leukaemia.
“It turned my life upside down. It was devastating to find out I had cancer, I was only 22. But in a way, it was also a relief to finally have answers after months of misdiagnoses. They told me the cancer was so severe that they could only do 4 weeks of treatment, I began planning my own funeral.
“We started intense chemotherapy, which in the end went on for 2 years. I spent most of those first 2 years as an inpatient at Tallaght Hospital. That was really hard, because I was immunocompromised, much of that time was in isolation so I couldn’t really have visitors, just my Mam and Dad most of the time. After spending the first year in hospital, it started to feel like normal life. I just got used to being there all the time and I started a course in psychotherapy and counselling online to pass the time."
“My treatment continued for three years, but the third year was mostly outpatient appointments, and I had my last chemo three years after the date I received my first session. In July 2013, I was told I was in remission!"
“The side effects of treatment were tough; I lost my hair and the steroids caused serious weight gain - that was something I hated most.
“The Irish Cancer Society were a brilliant support to me throughout my treatment. I met an amazing nurse from the Daffodil centre in Tallaght hospital, she was so kind and informative and gave me lots of information and leaflets on my type of cancer. It was really good to have someone to talk to, she also put me in touch with a group of young adults with cancer, which was a great support.
“My treatment continued for three years, but the third year was mostly outpatient appointments, and I had my last chemo three years after the date I received my first session. In July 2013, I was told I was in remission!
“Because I was diagnosed so late and the cancer had progressed, I started treatment 3 days after I found out it was leukaemia. This meant there was no time for me to consider my fertility options like freezing my eggs. I had convinced myself I wouldn’t be fertile and had made peace with the fact that I would never have my own children, I also felt that if I did carry a child, I would always live in fear that they would get sick too.
“I met my partner, Sarah in 2015. We agreed that she would carry our baby and in August 2021 our beautiful son Lucas was born! Life is good now. I have my own family and am working in a job that I love. I am doing well, a lot better than I ever thought. But I am still living with the effects of cancer, 13 years since I was diagnosed, and will need a double hip replacement in the future. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it, and it has changed my outlook on life completely."
“I was also lucky enough to meet my best friend, Amy Conlon whilst going through cancer, she had leukaemia at the same time, we formed a unique friendship, and she was my bridesmaid at our wedding."
“My words of advice to anyone else going through a similar diagnosis is to try to keep a positive mindset. It’s not always easy but you have to try to look forward. Even when I spent years in hospital, I tried to stay positive and made sure that every day I had something to smile about."
Victoria has taken part in Relay for Life Offaly several times. She encourages anyone affected by cancer to come along to the Aviva on 29th September and says,
"Relay for Life is important to me because every year we stand together as survivors to celebrate and to show the support we have, but it also reminds me that the memory of the ones we lost to cancer are never forgotten, we remember fondly together and celebrate their life and the fight against cancer is stronger than ever”.
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