Mum’s cancer left her back broken in 13 places – ‘It was really, really hard’

Myeloma Awareness Week campaign highlights disease

Antionette had only just returned to work from maternity leave in 2012 when she started feeling completely exhausted.

As a working mum with a young baby, she didn’t think too much of it but she decided to consult her GP anyway.

The doctor sent her to get blood tests and found the results concerning.

Antoinette was previously diagnosed with MGUS, which describes a benign condition that affects blood cells called plasma cells and also poses a one percent risk of developing into cancer-like myeloma.

In February 2012, the mum was sadly told that her condition had progressed to this blood cancer type.

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Myeloma develops from plasma cells, causing local bone damage or generalised thinning of the bone.

Over the years, Antionette’s cancer has returned seven times and caused her spine to fracture in 13 places, which has resulted in her going from 5ft 2ins to 4ft 9ins.

The mum, who is a former support worker, from Enfield, London, said: “After maternity leave, I kept feeling more tired than usual.

“I thought it might be postnatal depression then I just put it down to being a working mum with a young baby.

“I had a bone marrow biopsy and they told me I had myeloma – it was really, really hard.”

When Antoinette received the diagnosis, her son, Reuban was just a baby and her daughter Savannah was four.

She explained that Reuban, who is now 13, has only known his mum being ill.

“I’m glad to have got this far. I never thought I would see them grow up,” Antoinette added.

After lockdown started, her cancer started to eat away at her vertebrae, causing her spine to fracture in four places.

Antoinette spent three weeks in the hospital and was sent home in a back brace.

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Despite being on strong painkillers and eventually begging her orthopaedic doctor to see her in person, she was told that her pain would eventually subside over the phone.

Less than a week later, she had to be rushed into hospital, where she found out she had nine more back fractures.

She then had to undergo kyphoplasty surgery, which injects cement into broken bones, but the damage to her spine has left her in constant pain and with limited mobility.

Antionette said: “I couldn’t have avoided getting those four back fractures at the start, but what could have been avoided was the situation getting a lot worse.

“But because of the pandemic, the care wasn’t there. So, I’m really not surprised that fewer people were diagnosed with myeloma during the pandemic.

“It’s only when my back fractured that it really started affecting my family because it affected my mobility.

“I can’t wash my hair myself; I’ve lost three inches in height, and I can’t drive. My husband had to give up work to look after me. I have a permanent curve in my spine.

“But I just deal with the here and now. What’s the point in worrying?”

Antoinette had reached her seventh round of chemotherapy and exhausted all other treatment options so she signed up for a clinical trial for a new drug – belantamab mafodotin – in November 2021.

In December 2022, she was told she was in remission, with the signs and symptoms of her cancer being reduced.

As Myeloma Awareness Week gets underway, Antoinette has teamed up with the charity Myeloma UK to highlight there are currently 851 people living with undiagnosed myeloma in the UK and raise awareness of the condition.

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