A huge part of why we love the work we do is our members. Everyone who comes to the gym has a story. Today we wanted to tell you about one of our amazing Members Martin. Martin has recently returned to the gym after being diagnosed with leukaemia cancer All Philadelphia +. We welcome Martin back on his road to recovery, we love that the Gym has given him the ability to focus in his recovery. His story is an important one to tell so we thought we would let him tell it in his own words!
Here is Martin’s story…….
I have always lived a very sociable life; exercising regularly which was great for after work as this would clear my head and release endorphins. My journey started with waking up with bleeding gums & a few odd bruises at pressure points that I put down to training. I thought nothing of it, I was going on holiday to Sardinia and felt a little rundown and so that was that and I went. Once I was there I thought a bit of rest would do me good, I then started to see bruises all over my body and that the gums were still bleeding but I still put it down to being exhausted.
it was my wife who saw the difference in me, I was getting paler even though it was 30° and the bruising and sun rash was getting worse. we were only there for a few days. My wife said she would phone the doctors the minute we got back as I didn’t want to go to the doctor in Italy. Once we were home my wife phoned 111 and described my symptoms, at which point we were told to get to the hospital doctor immediately. This was on Sunday, I was taken for tests and x-ray and after 2 ½ hours I was diagnosed with leukaemia cancer All Philadelphia +. As you can imagine this hit me like a ton of bricks but I did stay positive and said to the doctors how do we fix it? They agreed with me that that was the attitude have -this was another path I had to take and not one I planned. I am religious and I prayed to God for guidance.
I had to stay in hospital immediately as I was low on platelets and blood at which point I knew I wouldn’t be leaving hospital anytime soon. I stayed in Stevenage hospital for three days whilst the doctors worked on my exact diagnosis and plan. My wife stayed by my side day and night sleeping on the floor beside me and in all honesty I think this was the hardest thing. It wasn’t just necessarily all about what I was going through it was the others it affected. Once my full diagnosis was made & the plan made I was transferred to UCLH at the late hour of 11 o’clock. I was in my new accommodation where I was greeted by a graduate Dr who examined me and explained what would be happening in the morning. I was scared but optimistic as I had heard about how they remove bone marrow for testing and I knew that I would have to have this experience for myself.
I cried as a realisation kicked in that in the morning, I would be starting chemotherapy which I knew nothing about, I just remember thinking of how great my life was and what I had to be grateful for. I was preparing myself for what might happen to me in the following months, that I would be staying in getting treatment at UCLH indefinitely. Life as I knew it was flipped on its head. The morning came I was walking up with tablets to take and cereal for my breakfast with later on that that morning the room filled with doctors wanting to meet me for the first time. They said they had a busy schedule for me today as I would have to provide a sample from sperm storage before taking chemo if I was to have kids.
All I could remember is thinking that I just want to get on with the treatment as soon as possible.. Once I came back up there was a nurse there waiting to take my bone marrow. I remember getting on the bed and having to get into an awkward position in order for the process to be done. I still had a bit of muscle on my body the nurse said to me this may take a while, which I then laughed nervously. The sensation was like nothing you can describe. Once the bone marrow was tested I had to wait a few days for the chemotherapy plan to be made. I remember thinking is this all a dream I’m going to wake up soon. I stayed strong and positive getting up every day and walking around (thinking to myself was to keep eating as I knew this would give me strength(, I also knew I had to stay mentally strong by having a laugh with the nurses and doctors. Going to the gym and being active through playing competitive sports as a youngster meant that I knew I had to give myself a goal in order to stay sane through what was continually described to me as an endless recovery. The minute I conquered one goal I then started another and so was driving myself forward looking back occasionally to see how I had come.
Months passed, the first chemo I was sick a bit but it was fine I stayed strong. The second chemo let’s just say I would rather forget; my appearance was changing, I was losing a lot of weight, my hair was falling out and sometimes I looked in the mirror I just didn’t recognise myself. Following that round I was told that radiotherapy was my next big step. I had a consultancy about the radiotherapy I had to hear what could’ve happened and to sign that I understood the side effects. I think you get the idea – as dangerous as the side effects are it was the only option to prepare my body for a chance at recovery through a stem cell transplant. I had six in total full body radiations where they would position me in a box like shape strapping me to various objects. I remember they would ask what music I would like to listen to as I lay there like a box.This helped as I would close my eyes and try and drift away the feeling of radiotherapy is like the most exhausting and tiresome experience I have ever had. I believed I could run 20 marathons day after day and still not feel tired as I did going through that treatment. Once the radiotherapy had been completed I had one more stage to go I’d waited months for this my new stem cell transplant.
This was the final stage of treatment before I could even consider recovery. By this point I had lost my hair twice, been unable to walk, go to the toilet myself, even pull myself up in bed sometimes. The whole process was very understated. I was on a drip for about four hours, transfusing 8 bags donated by an anonymous donor. There was then an intense wait over the first month in order to see if the engrafting was working. The recovery time takes around three months in bed, with periods of being bed & hospital bound when struck down with something as common as a cold. Sometimes longer as you have no immune system so your fear of germs and your anxiety through the roof. I had weeks and months back and forward to the hospital staying in for two weeks time in order for them to take control of any infections.
I was keen to get some control back over my body and so I was pushing to be allowed back to exercise and the gym. In the early months there was no way I could be exposed to the germs in public places and so I had to make do with building up at home, starting at 5 minutes a day. Since gaining my strength & immune system back I have managed to get back to the gym. Being able to train and seeing the results on my body has motivated me to continue on a steady programme to getting back to health and given me confidence back to face the world again.
We cannot praise Martin enough for his strength, or his bravery in telling his story.