There’s no doubt that a divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. It doesn’t just affect people emotionally and mentally. Stress and emotional upheaval also can have dramatic effects on the body.
People undergoing huge amounts of stress routinely have heart palpitations, lose weight and hair, or have gastrointestinal or muscular issues. The list of ways stress can cause physical effects goes on and on.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Kate Stallard of Worcestershire, England.
Stallard had recently split from her husband of 18 months after being in a relationship for close to 10 years. That would be a stressful time for anybody, and she assumed that that was the reason she felt so unlike herself. But she kept wondering why she was so exhausted.
Stallard tried to be positive and focus on her new life as a single woman. But finally, she collapsed in her bathroom and found herself in the emergency room.
Right away, doctors knew this wasn’t a typical case.
“I got there about 1 am. They took one look at me and knew something was really wrong,” she said. “They examined all my bruises and took more bloods, which they sent off to be urgently tested. I went home to wait for the results, and around two hours later, my phone rang again with the doctor telling me I was seriously ill and needed to get to A&E fast.”
Her diagnosis was the last thing she expected.
Stallard was shocked to learn her lethargy and exhaustion weren’t from the emotional impact of her divorce at all. Instead, she had promyelocytic leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer that was moving fast. In fact, doctors told her that if she didn’t start treatment in the next two days, she would die.
She went from thinking everything was completely normal to starting a rigorous chemotherapy regimen. Stallard’s cancer was so advanced, her body was almost septic.
Stallard tried her best to look at the bright side during her treatments.
She went through three rounds of chemotherapy and fought to remain positive the whole way through. Stallard documented her leukemia journey on Instagram. Her posts are aggressively upbeat. But they also acknowledge how difficult it was to come to terms with her illness and to almost losing her life. She talks about the need for humor through tough times, jokingly referring to her many blood transfusions as making her feel like a vampire.
There was one side effect she didn’t expect.
One big struggle for Stallard was learning that treatments would make it impossible for her to have children. She said that was one thing that had gotten her through her divorce: knowing that she could remarry and start a family.
“That’s been one of the hardest parts, and most horrific side effects for me,” she said. “I know adoption and so on is an option, and that I had to have the treatment to stay alive, but I still need to grieve.”
Unfortunately, things weren’t over yet.
After her chemo treatment was complete, doctors told Stallard that she was officially in remission. However, the relief didn’t last long.
In February 2017, they found cancer had returned, spreading into Stallard’s nervous system. This time, she underwent 17 weeks of treatment, including spinal injections and a stem cell transplant.
She wants people to trust themselves if something doesn’t feel right.
Stallard still needs to go in for monitoring every three months to make sure her cancer has not returned. But for now, everything seems to be on an upward trajectory.
In the meantime, she is a strong advocate for cancer patients and blood donations. Stallard also talks about how important it is to seek immediate medical care if you ever feel like something is not as it should be. She encourages people to advocate strongly for themselves in medical settings and to trust their instincts for testing.
“If you’re experiencing anything at all that doesn’t feel right – breathlessness, unexplained bruising, night sweats, bleeding or persistent infections – don’t be afraid to be open and honest with your doctor, and push for a blood test,” she said.
For most people, feeling tired or stressed, especially after an emotional life event, doesn’t mean a medical emergency.
But Stallard’s story is a good example of why it is so important to be proactive about seeking medical treatment if you feel consistently tired or “off.” It’s unlikely to happen, but remember that advocating for yourself and insisting on tests could help save your life.
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Not sure how I feel about today. It’s two years since I was diagnosed with cancer. This time two years ago I was gravely ill in A&E and my life unravelled completely. My heart was already shattered and then a sledgehammer was taken to my body. Throughout the past few years my soul has been ripped apart. The memories are enough to send me sobbing. I didn’t know what to do with myself today, loneliness was overwhelming so I scooped the dogs up and went for a beautiful walk around @westonbirtarb As tears rolled down my cheeks, the autumn leaves fell off the trees. It was peaceful. Mind, body, soul and heart are fragile but there’s still life in me. Which two years ago was hanging in the balance by a thread. It has been and continues to be a monumental struggle to still be standing here today. Didn’t want this post to be ‘heavy’ but it kind of is. Despite my smiling face and let’s face it, pretty awful selfies! #bloodcancer #leukaemia #apl #apml #fixme #bigday #treesarethebest #nature #therapy #maples #autumn #leaves #stemcelltransplant #chemo #radiotherapy #tbi #totalbodyirradiation #ivf #divorce #heartbreak #recovery #dontbesohardonyourself #tears #itsoktonotbeok