A student who put tiredness down to too much partying was given a devastating cancer diagnosis.
Tom Hunt was with friends in Budapest when he first began to feel unwell after spending the summer before university interrailing across Europe.
After weeks of travelling and partying, Tom had merely assumed that he probably just needed more sleep and less beer.
But when he reached Prague, the then 18-year-old from Hale , started feeling much worse. At this point he was suffering from a chest and throat infection and felt exceptionally tired – even after sleeping for 16 hours.
Tom decided to cut short his trip and fly home so he could get a doctor’s appointment with his friend’s dad, who was also his local GP.
He was given antibiotics and after raising concerns about a large haematoma on his leg was booked in for a blood test two days later, reports the Manchester Evening News.
The blood tests confirmed the teenager was suffering with glandular fever, but to his shock, they also revealed that he could have leukaemia. Tom was told to attend Manchester Royal Infirmary immediately and by the end of that week he was given the devastating diagnosis that he had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
That was back in 2018 and Tom has been in “morphological” remission since November of that year. He was cared for by the Christie Hospital in south Manchester until completing his treatment earlier this year.
Now four years later, he is preparing to start at the University of Manchester this September, and says life is finally returning to normal. Having been diagnosed with cancer just one week after experiencing symptoms, Tom is now encouraging other people to get checked out as soon as possible if something doesn’t feel right.
“From the July that year I had been feeling tired when I was going to work but then I’d just finished my A-levels and it was nothing you wouldn’t put down as normal,” Tom said.
“I went away with my mates and we were interrailing around Europe. In Budapest, I started feeling quite ill but powered on thinking I needed to stop drinking and sleep a bit more but in Prague I was just ridiculously ill.
“I normally sleep about seven or eight hours and I was sleeping 18 hours. I knew something wasn’t right. I was struggling to eat anything because my throat was so sore.
“My lymph nodes were all up down my neck so I just booked a flight home. Luckily one of the lads I was on holiday with – his dad is our local GP so he saw me straight away when I got back.
“He said it was just a throat infection and to take antibiotics and it should all be okay. But whilst I was away I’d crossed my legs while I was on the train asleep for like three hours and I got a massive big lump.”
Tom was out with his mum when they bumped into a knee surgeon. She asked the surgeon about the lump on Tom’s leg and his response was that he needed to get it checked out immediately.
“So I emailed the doctor again on Tuesday night at about 11 o’clock and he emailed me straight back and said pop in again tomorrow I’m free at 11, see me then,” Tom said.
“When he saw me again he said how are you feeling and I said a lot better I don’t feel ill and I was eating a bit more. He said you still don’t look right and you look very pale so I’ll do your blood and I’ll call you if there’s anything wrong. So he did them and I needed two blood transfusions straight away.
“He said my platelets were alright which he was surprised about but my immune system… there just wasn’t one so he told me to get straight to Manchester Royal Infirmary.”
Tom was admitted on to hospital on the Wednesday night and by the Friday he was told he had leukaemia. He was then moved to the Christie Hospital in south Manchester where he stayed for another month for intensive treatment.
From then until April 2019 he had to undergo lots of blood and platelet transfusions, as well as a lot of chemotherapy. He also suffered a seizure and had to surrender his driving licence, which he’s recently been able to reapply for.
Thanks to the success of his treatment, which formally finished in January, Tom is now able to get back to doing the things he loves like the gym, going out with friends and is preparing to start university next month.
How to spot symptoms of Leukaemia
The six most common symptoms experienced by all leukaemia patients prior to diagnosis. These are:
Shortness of breath
Fever or night sweats
Bruising or bleeding
Bone or joint pain
It is important to contact your GP, if you are displaying more than one of the above symptoms. Since the symptoms are common to other unrelated illnesses, it is unlikely that leukaemia will be the cause, however, it is for this exact reason that leukaemia can be hard to spot, as the signs and symptoms are so easily misdiagnosed. Contacting your GP earlier can be crucial for either ruling leukaemia out or getting an early diagnosis.