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My shining light, Aly

4th Dec 2020

This Christmas, Jo introduced us to a very special nurse, Aly, who was one of the shining lights that helped her throughout her treatment. Whether it was to make her laugh, give a warm hug, or the confidence to keep going.

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Aly

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The first time I met Aly, she had her arms full of chocolate panettone. She was handing them around to outpatients with a huge smile and a “merry Christmas”.

I was so used to nurses giving out IVs that I was a bit taken aback. Only a month after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), I hadn’t the faintest idea why this nurse was so happy.

Was the Rudolph made from bedpans hanging on the door behind her really appropriate?

Aly took one look at my pale, sad face and told me that I would get through my treatment. I didn’t believe her then, but four years later, I’m still in remission.

Clearly, I should have had more faith.

https://media.bloodcancer.org.uk/images/Rudolph_bed_pans.2e16d0ba.fill-530x395.jpg

Full of compassion, Aly told me about another patient who had had the carpet of life ripped out from beneath her. She, too, wanted to turn the clock back to the day before blood cancer had entered her life.

Aly was so sure that we could support each-other and helped us swap details. We still meet for coffee and a natter.

We’re kindred spirits in a post-cancer world.

That ‘above and beyond’ introduction helped make Aly, who was Sister in the Outpatients department, one of the shining lights that got me through blood cancer. I always looked out for her on my regular outpatient visits. I knew that she would always make me laugh, give me a hug (pre-covid of course) and the confidence to keep going.

There were times along the way that pessimism would take over. I simply couldn’t believe I would ever be me again. I just wasn’t able to get anywhere near my former energy levels. When I shared my thoughts with Aly, she looked more worried than I’ve ever seen her.

She said: “You may not be able to run a marathon, Jo. But you can run lots of 5kms, and they will add up to a marathon.”

In other words, slow down but keep going!

Those words stayed with me throughout my remaining year of treatment. They helped me to overcome the psychological obstacles that come with physical illness. Until there I was facing the end of treatment bell. To be honest, at that moment, ringing it felt like I was tempting fate.

Finishing treatment felt more terrifying than celebratory.

Once more I turned to Aly, who’d now been promoted to Ward Matron.

Her advice was this: “You have come too far, way too far, to worry about what may or may not be around the corner... This is you, NOW! This moment is, NOW.... That’s two moments right there, gone in a flash. Tomorrow is another day.”

I rang the bell, surrounded by some of the many staff who saved my life.

It simultaneously brought tears to my eyes and a grin from ear to ear. Sadly, family circumstances meant Aly couldn’t be with me that day, but I know she was with me in spirit. I’m also pretty sure she’s seen the video.

https://media.bloodcancer.org.uk/images/Jo_treatment_bell_sq.2e16d0ba.fill-530x395.png

Aly was just one of the many people who helped me throughout my treatment. I’m rarely at the hospital now, so I don’t see Aly anymore. Although, I did speak to her on the phone recently, and once again she gave me a boost. A shining light, in what was at times, a dark world.

I never look at a chocolate panettone without thinking of her!

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