Sammi’s Story

Posted Posted by Ross in Other Stories     Comments 1 comment

SammiSammi had just turned 9 years old when we went on a family holiday to Blackpool. During this holiday, Sammi was very tired and had trouble moving her left elbow. Initially, we thought she was worn out because of the busy summer holidays and thought she had hurt her elbow on the dodgems. She also had a nosebleed during the night, which stopped itself, so we didn’t think much of it. However, on the penultimate day of our holiday, we knew there was something wrong and took her to A&E. After 5 hours waiting, blood test and x-rays, we were sent back to the hotel and were told her bloods were ‘surprisingly normal’, and they couldn’t find a fracture in her elbow but we should return to the fracture clinic the following day. We returned to the fracture clinic as requested and were told there was nothing to see and to take Sammi to our GP when we got home if we weren’t happy.

On our way home, we stopped off for lunch and Sammi had a second nosebleed that wouldn’t stop. We arrived home at 5pm that Friday evening and knew this was something more serious, but hadn’t a clue as to what! Luckily, we have a really good GP and when we phoned, he asked us to bring her in straight away. He looked Sammi over and phoned our local hospital for her to be admitted. At first, we were sent to a paediatric orthopaedic ward for her elbow and they kept us over night. The following day, they said they would have to transfer us to another hospital with a paediatric ward following her blood tests.

We arrived at the third hospital in two days, and more blood tests were taken. Mark and myself were taken into a room late afternoon to speak to a doctor and nurse. They said that they couldn’t help Sammi at that hospital and Sick Kids in Edinburgh wanted to see her. I asked at that point if she could still have a virus, as that is what everyone was talking about. The doctor said ‘yes’. He said that they were sending us to the ‘oncology’ ward, but ‘not to let this worry us’ I don’t know if I was naïve, but I wasn’t aware what an oncology ward was, not having any dealings with cancer in my adult life.

We travelled in the ambulance to Edinburgh and went to A&E, and then transferred to the ward. We were laughing and joking with the ambulance drivers and doctors in A&E, obviously not aware of what was about to hit us! Still oblivious to what was happening, Mark went home on the Saturday night and I stayed in the ward with Sammi. On the Sunday morning, an oncology doctor came into our room and – right out of the blue – said : “We know that Samantha has leukaemia. We just need to find out what type so we can start treating it”. It is one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life to try and hold it together in front of Sammi. A nurse came straight in and sat with Sammi as I broke down on the ward. Everyone in Sick Kids thought we had been told before we got there as to what was suspected, but nobody had! I had to call Mark, who was in the middle of Argos buying a sat nav so he could find the hospital, to tell him that our precious daughter had cancer.

That is when the roller-coaster started. Drips were put up, medicines were given, long words were used and our wee family sat there trying to take it all in.

SammiThe following day, on Monday 10th August 2009, Sammi was taken into theatre for the first time to have a bone marrow test to find out what type of leukaemia she had and what treatment was needed. Never before have I had the feelings I felt on that day. When she was put to sleep for that first time I thought my heart was going to break. The two of us sat quietly outside, and it’s the first time in the whirlwind of the last few days that we didn’t have to be brave in front of our girl.

The nurses said that we would get used to blood results, chemo and oncology jargon, etc, but I couldn’t get my head round it. We arrived home after a couple of weeks in hospital armed with chemo, steroids, other medicine and lots and lots of medical information to digest and come to terms with.

We asked a hairdresser to come to the house to cut Sammi’s hair short in preparation for it falling out. A few weeks later she asked us to shave her head, she had been pulling out her hair in handfuls and wanted it gone. I know it’s a strange thing to say but she looked ‘healthier’ without her straggly, patchy hair. Stranger still, is that most of the hair that fell out is sitting in a gift bag in her room! She’d kept virtually every strand.

We are nearly 2 years into treatment now, and these have been the worst two years of our lives (punctuated with happy times e.g. Sammi’s 10th Birthday and when she appeared on Blue Peter). Sammi has had coped with all side effects and complications with her usual positive and smiley personality. She has only been able to manage around 6 weeks of school in the last 2 years but has managed to keep up with the class. As a family we are very close and all know what to look for in blood tests and how the medicines all work. She is due to finish her treatment 26th of October 2011 and this will be another milestone in her cancer journey.

There are lots of symptoms Sammi had before she was diagnosed that we weren’t aware were signs of cancer. Awareness of these symptoms needs to be raised. We were lucky having a fantastic GP but I know other families whom aren’t so lucky. We are in a world we didn’t ever want to be part of, but we are grateful for the treatment available to our daughter and the care she has received.

1 Comment to “Sammi’s Story”

  • I had the pleasure of meeting Sammi and her mum and dad earlier this month on a trip to Disneyland, Paris and she is a beatiful little girl inside and out! Congratulations on the near completion of treatment and I wish you all many healthy and happy years to come. Lynn and Blair xxx

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