A newlywed nurse who has lost her mother to cancer is now fighting herself against the cruel disease at the age of 26.
Julia Cullen, from Hartlepool, County Durham, received the blow a few weeks after she got married when she got home tired from her honeymoon.
She worked in intensive care at North Tees Hospital 60 hours a week and thought she didn't have to worry.
But soon, just going up the stairs, her heart would pound – even though she was in good shape because of her regular CrossFit exercise.
A doctor's appointment suddenly ended up in Mrs. Cullen's hospital, where she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.
Still grieving the loss of her mother to cancer in 2016, the news came as a huge shock to the family.
Julia Cullen, 26, from Hartlepool, got the devastating news that she had cancer three years after losing her mother to the same disease
Mrs. Cullen thought her fatigue was simply due to a good honeymoon with her new husband Peter Cullen
Mrs. Cullen, who married Peter Cullen in September 2018, whose age and occupation is unknown, said: & # 39; It is hard to assume that this happened in our first year of marriage. & # 39;
When the couple returned from their honeymoon, Mrs. Cullen put down her feelings of tiredness and little energy to enjoy herself too much.
She also worked long hours as a nurse, so when she had to sit down regularly during her duties, she considered it a temporary disruption to her health.
She said: & # 39; I thought, "I'll give it a few more weeks." But then I just started to get worse and I really struggled with my exercises at CrossFit.
WHAT IS ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIA?
Acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL) is a form of blood cancer that starts with young white blood cells in the bone marrow.
There are around 810 new cases in the UK every year. In the US, ALL affects approximately 1.7 adults per 100,000.
Everyone can develop ALL, but it mainly affects younger people.
Many ALL symptoms are vague and flu-like, such as:
- General weakness
- Frequent infections
- Easily develop bruising or bleeding, including nose bleeds, heavy menstruation and blood in the urine or faeces
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Bone or joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Feeling full
- Clearer skin than normal
Risks to developing ALL are exposure to radiation, smoking, obesity and a weak immune system.
Research suggests breastfeeding and being exposed to infections in children can reduce a person's risk.
The most important ALL treatment is chemotherapy. Patients can also receive radiotherapy, steroids or bone marrow transplants.
Source: Cancer Research UK
& # 39; Then it came to the point that, even if I climbed the stairs alone, my heartbeat would go through the roof.
& # 39; Then I thought: "That is definitely not normal". & # 39;
Assuming that the fatigue was nothing serious, Mrs. Cullen decided on January 18 this year to make an appointment with her doctor to have her blood taken.
The alarm bells began to ring when she was called to hospital later that day.
& # 39; I had to work the night shift, so when they called me I had a nap, & # 39; she said.
& # 39; When they told me to go to the hospital, I just felt shocked and dazed.
& # 39; My husband is working away and he was not here, but my sister came with me.
& # 39; I think I started to realize when I saw the nurse's face in the ward.
& # 39; I just thought I was staying overnight, but she said: & # 39; I think you will remain & # 39;. & # 39;
Mrs. Cullen was sure it was bad news when doctors dropped the bomb on her low white blood cell count.
She said: & # 39; After working in a hematology department before I knew what was wrong with me before the words came out of his mouth.
& # 39; My sister was holding my hand as she also knew. And we both started to cry. & # 39;
Ms Cullen was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia – a blood cancer that progresses quickly and aggressively.
With around 650 people diagnosed in the UK every year, the cancer is very rare. There are approximately 5,930 new cases in the US every year.
Half of all cases diagnosed are in adults and half in children, and it is the most common form of childhood leukemia.
Mrs. Cullen & # 39; s mother Cath, 61, who was also a nurse, fought colon cancer with liver metastasis before she unfortunately lost her fight in May 2016. Pictured, the two together
Mrs. Cullen was operated on to get some eggs before she started treatment, hoping that she and her husband, pictured on their wedding day, could have a family someday
It is caused by a genetic change in the stem cells that releases immature white blood cells into the bloodstream before they are fully developed. These are called blast cells.
As the number of bladder cells increases, the number of red blood cells and platelet cells decreases, causing symptoms of anemia such as tiredness, shortness of breath and an increased risk of excessive bleeding.
Approximately 70 percent of patients will survive their leukemia for five years or more after being diagnosed, with younger people having a better chance than older people, according to Cancer Research UK.
Mrs. Cullen and her family still mourned after losing their mother, Cath, to cancer a few years earlier.
The 61-year-old, also a nurse, had fought colon cancer with liver metastasis before she unfortunately lost her fight in May 2016.
But after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen tried to stay positive and look forward to their future and their lives together as a couple.
Mrs. Cullen is now receiving chemotherapy up to four times a week, either through a Hickman line, which is a tube through the skin in a vein, in tablet form, or injected into her back.
Knowing that she would lose her blonde locks, she had Cullen shave them off beforehand.
If there are indications of the cancer in August, she may need a stem cell transplant.
A stem cell and bone marrow transplant is an option if a patient does not respond to treatment and destroys and replaces unhealthy blood cells with stem cells that have been removed from the blood or bone marrow. This allows doctors to use higher doses of chemotherapy.
Many of the treatments used to treat acute leukemia can cause infertility, and those who have received high doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in preparation for stem cell and bone marrow transplants are particularly at risk.
That is why Mrs. Cullen had to undergo surgery in February to get her eggs, so that she might have another family in the future.
The young nurse says that she remains positive and strong with the support of her family.
She said: & # 39; I've always tried to stay positive about what's happening to me.
& # 39; I learned that you have no control over what is going to happen to you in life, but you can control your attitude to it.
& # 39; It is so important not to sweat the small things in life and to realize how wonderful the ordinary life is.
& # 39; People get angry because of traffic jams, someone who parks wonky or because they have won 4 pounds at a slimming club.
& # 39; They allow these things to affect their lives, while these things are actually nothing. & # 39;
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