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Ian's Story

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By Ian, aged 62, from Shetland.

At 4pm on Friday, 10th February 2023, I saw my doctor at Lerwick Health Centre. I had been getting increasingly tired and easily fatigued for several months. I thought I might be anaemic or maybe have a virus or asymptomatic Covid-19.

The doctor examined me and took a blood sample. He said as it was late on Friday afternoon and the laboratory at the Gilbert Bain Hospital was closed over the weekend, I would probably not hear anything until Monday.

I was surprised when, just over two hours later, I received a phone call from the hospital. A doctor told me something had shown up in my blood test, so I needed to come to the hospital immediately, and I should take an overnight bag with me.

Less than 24 hours later, I was sitting in the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary via air ambulance, being told I had blood cancer, probably Leukaemia. I returned back home on Sunday, 28th April 2024.

I was marooned on the Scottish mainland for one year, eleven weeks and two days. Not that I was counting! During that time, I had four hospital stays: three at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and one at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. Apart from two short stays in other accommodations in Aberdeen, I was based in Clan for the rest of the time.

I spent around 51 weeks there - just shy of one year. I was Clan’s equivalent of the Major in Fawlty Towers. Cancer patients came and went, but I stayed put!

My diagnosis was a shock to all, especially me. I was the last person anyone would think would get a cancer diagnosis. I had always done everything right. Never smoked, never took drugs, drank very little alcohol, exercised every day, ate well, was not overweight, and had no known underlying health problems.

You never think that it is going to happen to you.

I have had many different treatments, both as an inpatient and an outpatient, including several cycles of intensive chemotherapy. I was told my only chance of a cure was a successful stem cell transplant.

On 6th September 2023, I was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where, one week later, I received my German donor's stem cells.

This unknown person has potentially saved my life. We now share the same blood. It's hard to imagine how grateful you could feel to someone you've never met.

I have also received countless blood and platelet transfusions, each unit representing a blood donation from someone I didn't know. I will be forever grateful to all those people.

Coming from Shetland, I was aware of Clan, but I didn't fully appreciate just what a fantastic facility it is. I thought it was solely accommodation for cancer patients from the Northern Isles receiving their treatment in Aberdeen. It is so much more than that, offering drop-in services to anyone affected by cancer, including counselling and complementary therapies.

All the staff and volunteers are friendly, many of whom I now class as friends. I really can't praise them highly enough. After my lengthy stay, it was an emotional experience to say goodbye.

Clan House is built in an ideal location, just a short walk to and from the hospital. It is between Westburn Park and Victoria Park, where I took my short daily walks.

Clan accommodation was the perfect home for me. As I was immunosuppressed and at high risk of infection, I had to avoid public transport, supermarkets, restaurants, and cafes. My room in Clan had a fridge, microwave, and crockery so I could safely isolate myself.

My family and friends were welcome to visit me at any time. A staff member or volunteer always met them and offered tea or coffee. My regular visitors also got to know some of the staff really well.

Given my condition, receiving treatment as an outpatient while based at Clan was the best possible scenario for me. It was comforting to know that someone was on the reception desk at Clan 24 hours a day and that I was just a short distance from senior haematology staff at the ARI.

Throughout my fifteen months of treatment, I have received the best quality of care from the medical teams in Lerwick, Aberdeen and Glasgow. I am so thankful for all they have done for me. I have been overwhelmed by the help and support I've received from my family, friends and complete strangers since I was first diagnosed with blood cancer. Thank you all.

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"I was lucky. A stem cell donor was found for me, but not everyone is so fortunate. Please consider donating blood and registering as a stem cell donor if you can. Your generous act could save someone's life."

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