Most everyone knows how to read the words on a page or a placard (or even this screen that’s before you right now!). But reading the clues in our own bodies is a skill that too few of us have bothered to learn.
Kirsten Hawksey, 23, from Merseyside, England, serves as a case in point. The mother of a 15-month-old baby had no idea why she’d started to bruise on her legs.
A self-proclaimed “avoider of doctors,” Hawksey ignored the blotches until pestering from friends finally sent her to the physicians. What they told her must’ve been beyond shocking.
Hawksey had leukemia, a cancer of the blood. However, her variety — a type called acute promyelocytic leukemia, which causes an overproduction of immature blood-forming cells — had a survival rate of over 80 percent.
“Thank god for everyone pushing me to go over some unexplained bruising!” she wrote on Facebook. “I literally couldn’t thank all my family, friends, and work colleagues for all their support this last week.
“If anything I feel more lucky than unlucky.” However, Hawksey’s fortunes would soon take a terrible turn.
One of the unique characteristics of ACL is that it limits the body’s ability to create platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells — the cells that fight infection. Combine that with the immune-dampening side effects of chemotherapy, and those ill with the disease face a heightened risk from bacteria and viruses.
That was the risk that befell Hawksey. She began an immediate course of chemotherapy, but on Christmas Eve, she came down with a bacterial lung infection.
Doctors fought it as hard as they could. Yet Hawksey still developed a brain bleed — a death sentence in most cases.
Sadly, it proved fatal for Hawksey, and on Christmas Day, her family made the difficult choice to take her off of life support.
But her father, Neil Hawksey, wants people who suffer from leukemia to know that they have hope. “Kirsten was unlucky,” he said.
“She didn’t die of leukemia. People can fight it and survive.”
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