‘My cancer caused me to shrink after my symptoms were mistaken for asthma’

Myeloma Awareness Week campaign highlights disease

It took one year for Sarah Myers, from Bedford, to get the correct diagnosis after doctors put her cancer symptoms down to asthma.

The 37-year-old received the gloomy news of myeloma diagnosis in 2018 after suffering from warning signs, including repeated infections and shortness of breath.

Myeloma refers to a rare incurable blood cancer which strikes in the bone marrow and currently affects more than 24,000 people in the UK.

By the time her cancer was caught, several of her vertebrae had collapsed, causing her to lose a whopping eight centimetres in height. She also had holes in the bones of her legs, sternum and pelvis.

Sarah, who is an HR consultant, said: “When I was diagnosed and they measured me, I remember thinking, ‘That’s not my height’. 

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“I was 5ft 8in previously and I’m noticeably shorter now. I try to be stoic about my illness but some days it’s really tough. 

“I went undiagnosed for a long time. If it had been diagnosed sooner, perhaps the damage to my bones wouldn’t have been so significant.”

The now 42-year-old is on a mission to raise awareness of the tell-tale signs of this hidden blood cancer and highlight the severe impact of delayed diagnosis.

Symptoms like repeated infections and shortness of breath were the first to ring alarm bells for the woman.

Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, myeloma is frequently missed, because the warning signs can be vague.

Myeloma UK recommends looking out for the following red flags: back pain, easily broken bones, fatigue, and recurring infections.

The HR consultant’s symptoms were first mistaken for asthma which led to a delay in her diagnosis.

Because of that, Sarah is now urging everyone to be persistent when they feel something isn’t right.

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She said: “You know your own body and when things aren’t right with it.

“If you feel something isn’t right – an infection isn’t getting better, or the pain has been hanging around for too long – you really need to push for a second opinion or to see a specialist. 

“Keep pressing if you’re not happy with the answers you’ve been given. Be really dogged about getting that diagnosis.”

Following the diagnosis, she had to have an operation to stabilise her thigh bone due to the damage caused by the cancer and she is now on her third line of treatment.

Worryingly, half of patients with this cancer type wait over five months to be diagnosed even though it can be usually picked up with a simple blood test, Myeloma UK reports.

Myeloma UK Chief Executive Dr Sophie Castell said: “The most important thing people can do is rule themselves out by checking their symptoms and, if anything isn’t right, go see their GP.  

“The symptoms of myeloma are vague and can often seem unrelated or appear at different times, so if you think there’s more to it than run-of-the-mill tiredness, a pulled muscle or old age – and if your symptoms just aren’t going away – please keep pushing or ask for a second opinion. 

“It might take more than one appointment for your doctor to put the pieces of the puzzle together.” 

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