September 27, 2008

Joanne Finds Her Voice After Battle

By Liz Perkins

When Swansea mum Joanne Leonard walked through the door of her doctor's surgery, she thought she had nothing worse than a stomach bug.

But little did she realise the diagnosis would turn her whole world upside down.

She was surprised to discover she had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the pancreas and chest, as it is rare for women to have the disease.

The 29-year-old, of Glebe Road, Loughor, had to undergo major surgery, including intensive cancer treatment.

She was just 27, and was at home caring for her five-month-old baby Aled, away from her research consultant job, when she received the news.

Joanne was so ill it was left to her family and friends to step in when she underwent surgery at Morriston Hospital.

She then had to undergo radiotherapy along with eight sessions of chemotherapy, over the space of seven months at Singleton Hospital.

"I spent my 28th and 29th birthdays in hospital," she said.

"I was pretty poorly and spent some time in intensive care after surgery.

"I had to have five sessions of radiotherapy to reduce the mass in my chest to improve my breathing before I could have the chemo."

But now, 15 months on, Joanne is celebrating after being told only last week that the cancer had been completely destroyed.

Her partner David Malpas and little Aled, who is now 21 months old, helped her celebrate her recovery.

When she was seriously ill she said she turned to the Macmillan Cancer Support website for advice about her illness in her hour of need.

And now she is becoming a Macmillan Cancer voice to help others like her.

Macmillan Cancer Voices is a nationwide network offering people affected by cancer opportunities to share their experiences and help improve cancer care.

It is one in a series of schemes from Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity has more than 200 professionals based in hospitals and communities all over Wales, including specialists nurses, GPs, pharmacists, dieticians and welfare benefits advisers.

Joanne said she wanted to help offer others key-level support if they too discover they have the disease, which is a type of cancer derived from lymphocytes - a type of white blood cell.

"It is rare for young women to contract non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and so I would like to help other women like me by learning about my experience," she added.

"I want people to know that they are not alone. When I was ill, I read about a woman with my cancer and I was eager to discover how she got on. "If I can help one person, I will be happy."

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