Pamela Armellei beams as she holds her new puppy Punx (named after Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating marmot and star of Groundhog Day) up to the webcam.
‘He’s settled right in. We already had three dogs, but right before I came home, a litter was born not far from my mum’s house. My husband said, ‘it’s a sign, it’s meant to be!’
Gef first spoke to Pamela in May 2021, weeks after her initial diagnosis on Good Friday at just 40 years old. With the Island still under lockdown conditions, Pamela’s diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia was flagged during a routine test at Nobles’ blood clinic.
‘The blood test was at 10:30am, they called me back at 12:30pm asking me to go and see them, and I was at Clatterbridge the following day at 8pm. From a speed perspective, it was fantastic.’
Soon after she arrived at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool, Pamela was admitted to the neighboring Royal Liverpool ICU following a fungal chest infection, which caused her body to go into cardiac arrest.
‘When I came back to Clatterbridge, they gave me the most wonderful welcome. I’d built a relationship with these nurses before I went into the ICU, and when I came back I needed total care. In the past, I would’ve been really scared about them seeing me again, but they are just such wonderful people, they made it so it wasn’t uncomfortable or shameful. Being able to share that level of honesty with everyone on social media has helped me process everything. It made me realise you don’t need to put across a certain image all the time.’
Many of us have followed Pamela’s journey online via her Instagram page @theleukaemiadiaries, through which she has shared photos of her treatment and recovery.
‘Social media has been brilliant on lots of levels. From an encouragement and positivity perspective, you’re boosted all the time with messages and feedback which helps you feel encouraged. It’s also helped me connect with people on similar journeys. Making those friendships and both offering and receiving support from people who are going through the same thing has been great. Sharing the rawness of cancer with others has been incredibly cathartic.’
A new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) in England states that as many as 740,000 potential cancer referrals had been ‘missed’ during the course of the pandemic up to September 2021, reflecting an issue Pamela has come across over the last eight months.
‘Through Instagram, I’d connect with other people going through a similar cancer battle, who’d had it missed initially because they didn’t fit the normal diagnostic parameters: they were young and female. There’s nothing I could criticise about the NHS, but there were patients in my hospital in Liverpool who had approached GPs or even A&E with concerns, and from their descriptions, had glaringly obvious symptoms of leukaemia. It probably sounds very strange but I feel very blessed that I happened to go for a random blood test that day in April.’
Pamela’s advice for anyone with concerns about their health is to listen to their body and mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for further tests if they feel something isn’t feeling right.
‘Looking back now, I’ve been thinking at what point would I have gone to the GP to say there’s something wrong’, she says. ‘Since my symptoms at the time of diagnosis were tiredness and breathlessness, my initial thought was maybe it was Covid, or a chest infection. Our attitude is often one of ‘I don’t want to bother people’ or ask too many questions, but it’s so important, particularly at a time when resources are so stretched. It can be as simple as requesting a blood test. You don’t want to fall through the net.’
Pamela’s treatment is now complete and we’re delighted to share the news that she is in full remission, with a high chance that the cancer will never return.