In June 2021, Roseena Doherty had a temperature and sore throat that wouldn’t go away.
After taking a Covid-19 test, which was negative, she was prescribed a course of antibiotics by her GP. The antibiotics didn’t help and Roseena was sent for another Covid test, which again proved negative. By this stage, feeling too ill to get out of bed and unable to swallow any food or fluids, she asked her mother to take her to A & E in Letterkenny Hospital.
“I was taken through fairly quickly and put in a cubicle,” recalls Roseena. “A nurse then took a blood sample and gave me a paracetamol IV as they thought I had a bad case of tonsillitis. After about two hours, a lady came and introduced herself as the consultant haematologist. I knew then something was wrong.”
Roseena was transferred from Letterkenny to Galway University Hospital, where she underwent further tests. She was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and it was established that she would need four rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Her first two rounds of chemo went well but she suffered some setbacks during the later rounds. On two occasions, Roseena asked to see a psychologist when she felt overwhelmed by what was happening. “I just couldn’t actually take any more bad news,” she says.
She is very grateful for the care she received from her medical team in Galway, and in St James Hospital in Dublin, where she had a bone marrow transplant. Because Roseena’s siblings were not a match, she needed a stem cell donor for the transplant. “A stranger saved my life,” she says. “When I talk to people about this, they have no idea that they can register to become a stem cell donor so I would like more people to be aware of this.”
Before her transplant, she found it helpful to read about the experiences of other people who had also had the procedure. “It gave me an insight into what was in front of me and that made things it a wee bit easier.”
This is one of the reasons that she is sharing her own story, and she would also like to raise more awareness of AML. “Until I was diagnosed with AML, it’s not something I’d ever really heard of and I knew absolutely nothing about it,” she says. “I met other patients with leukaemia in Galway who had symptoms like tiredness and bruising but that wasn’t my experience. I had a sore throat and a temperature.” She is also looking to start a support group in her local area for people who have had a cancer diagnosis.
Although there were some difficult days after the transplant, she is now recovering and recuperating in an apartment near the hospital so that she can have regular check-ups over the next while.
Throughout her diagnosis and her treatment, Roseena has tried to stay positive and looks after her physical health by doing things like gardening. “I love getting out in the fresh air and walking the many beaches and hills that I'm very lucky to have on my doorstep as well as my garden,” she says.
She is looking forward to the future and getting back to her life after the transplant.
“Sometimes we think we have to be very brave,” she says. “When people say to me that I’m dealing it with very well and that I’m so positive, I would say back that I try my best but there are days when I have cried for the day. We have all have days, no matter how brave you look and how positive you are, there is a day when something just hits you out of the blue and maybe for 10 minutes you’ll have that cry but then you’ll just dry yourself off and you get on with it again.”
Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line
If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm
For more information