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Christmas will be different, but we’ll still make it special

22nd Dec 2021

For two years Joel was in chronic pain, but it was only after being rushed to hospital that he was finally diagnosed with blood cancer. Although Joel has been in an isolation ward for over four months, his partner Amy writes that she hopes she'll be able to bring him home in time for Christmas.

A young couple Amy and Joel pose with their very young daughter for a selfie.

Joel, Amy and their daughter Isla

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Joel fell ill a couple of years ago, before the start of the pandemic and we went into lockdown.

It was originally chronic joint pain. His back would hurt, his hip would hurt. It would move around his body. He was eventually referred to a rheumatology specialist and diagnosed with Arthritis.

We finally had a diagnosis, but something wasn’t right

Joel works as an electrician and was trying to carry on working. He’s an absolute trooper, but he had to give up his job. He was in too much pain.

I got a full-time job, which meant he had to look after our little girl. Although he wasn’t working, he still had to be a dad.

All his symptoms were put down to arthritis, but I started to make a little diary of things.

I started to question the diagnosis. And I insisted that he have an MRI scan.

We waited four and a half months to get one

We were collapsing as a family unit.

The day we found out the results, we had to rush Joel to A & E. His lips were blue, and he was convulsing. On the way to hospital we received a phone call – the MRI scan had revealed a haematological cancer. This was on 27th June.

Since that day Joel hasn't been home.

Joel and Amy in hospital

Joel was admitted to intensive care with sepsis straight away. We waited a month for his diagnosis, and he was eventually diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

It has been really hard for Joel. He’s received chemotherapy, but since been into intensive care after suffering an allergic reaction. He also picked up covid.

He had to be put in isolation, and I could only see him for one hour, once a week. I fought so hard to get that one hour.

I think an earlier diagnosis would have made such a difference

If we’d know earlier, we’d have protected him more. If we’d had an earlier diagnosis, he wouldn’t have gotten sepsis.

The doctors are saying that Joel’s leukaemia is treatable. There’s still belief that Joel can be cured, and we are holding on to that.

The strength that he has shown has been so inspiring

Joel has been incredible. His resilience has been outstanding. But everyone has their limits. He’s been very low at points.

We’re navigating this journey new and don’t know anyone who’s walked this path before.

Our daughter is four, and doesn’t know too much about what’s happening to dad. She knows that doctors are giving daddy medicine to try and make him better.

They write each other little letters and pictures and things, to try and keep the father—daughter bond. Joel sent her a build a bear, that plays a recording of his voice when she hugs it.

Joel and his daughter Isla

Keeping up Joel’s spirits

When Joel got his diagnosis, I used your website and tried to learn as much about it as I could. I’ve read lots of the stories that people share, and I was also really inspired to get our word out there too.

It sounds a bit airy-fairy, but I write poems, inspirational quotes, and I post them to a social media account.

I just wanted Joel to have a constant flow of positivity and motivation, and I thought setting this up could be a place where he could go and read it.

Normally Christmas would be just us three. Me attempting to cook the dinner, our daughter running round the house with all her new toys and Joel normally helping construct the toys!

This year it might look slightly different.

We’re hopeful that we can bring Joel home for the day, even for just a small portion of the day.

Can anything positive come out of this?

I find it upsetting to think there’s someone out there who’s in the system who doesn’t realise they have cancer. Who might be suffering, like Joel.

If something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to question a diagnosis, and don’t give up until you get the help you need. Keep questioning and keep going.

If one person who hears our story can get that diagnosis, that support – one bit of good might come out of what we’ve been through, and that would mean the world to me.

If you'd like to know what the most common symptoms of blood cancer are, you can find out more here, or watch our short video: