December 23, 2021, started like any other day for Jo Spare. It ended like no other.
A busy mum-of-two, she was prepping for Christmas around work. She’d made a GP appointment after feeling run down and thinking she might have had tonsillitis. She nearly cancelled. Luckily, she didn’t.
“I was at the doctors that morning and arrived at the Royal and started chemo that night,” she recalled.
Having had a blood test at her GP surgery, the results were rang through to her later that afternoon in a phone call that changed everything.
“They told me I needed to get to the Osborne Building as soon as possible. Knowing the hospital, I knew what that meant.”
Jo went into autopilot and quickly packed a bag, with Covid visiting restrictions in place, her husband dropped her off at the hospital, neither of
them knowing then that they wouldn’t see each other again for eight weeks.
“It sounds mad but as I sat there, having started cancer treatment literally hours after a blood test, I was just relieved I’d wrapped the presents and sorted a turkey. It hadn’t sunk in.”
Jo’s diagnosis – acute myloid leukaemia - meant she would need four bouts of chemotherapy. The first was delivered in hospital. She spent Christmas Day and the weeks that followed alone in hospital, unable to see her family.
“It was just so tough, looking back now I don’t know how we did it.
“The staff were lovely and I spoke to my family on FaceTime but it was mentally so challenging.”
Not allowing herself to think she’d be repeating the feat another three times, it was a conversation that took place before she was discharged after her first round of treatment that perked Jo up.
“There was talk of perhaps being able to have my chemo at home. When it was offered I didn’t even have to think about it.”
The ambulatory care team were called in and a treatment plan was drawn up.
“Natasha and Anika have been amazing. They haven’t just supported me but my whole family.
“The fact I’ve been able to stay at home, sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, all while being treated for cancer has made such a difference to my experience and to my recovery.”
Chemotherapy drugs are administered through a pump, meaning patients can live at home, with the oversight of a dedicated team and regular appointments.
Ambulatory Care and Post-Transplant Specialist Nurses Anika Sirel and Natasha Woolgar arepart of the team supporting patients to continue treatment at home, are clear on the benefits too.
“The service really is about doing what we can to make what is an incredibly difficult time just a little bit more manageable and bearable.
“Helping patients get the care they need and be at home while they get it is something we’re really pleased to offer.
“But we recognise that for some patients it doesn’t work and isn’t what they want and that’s ok too.
“We still get the chance to support our patients and that’s what our role is all about.”