My name is Darren Derbyshire, I’m 47 years old. I live in a small town called Innisfail, 20 mins away from the city of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. I moved to Canada in 2001 from England and married my wife Diane the love of my life and started a great new adventure in Canada, we do the normal things in life working, traveling, enjoying spending time with family, walking the dogs, biking, all the fun stuff couples do.
In early July 2017 Diane said I should go to get a checkup at the doctor’s office, I would pretty much fall a sleep after I got home on the couch, I put it down to working a stressful job and thought the tiredness was down to stress, I felt good and still had lots of energy. After having the normal blood works and vitals at the doctor’s office, I never really though much about it. Then a few days later I got a call from the doctor’s office, wanted me to have another blood test at the end of the month as my White Blood Cell was high at 22,000. I had further blood tests and a special test called Flow Cytometry, my WBC counts continue to rise through July and August and I was referred to the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic in Calgary for an appointment beginning of September, they suspected that I have Leukemia and wanted to do further tests such as a bone marrow biopsy, CT scans, ultra sounds.
I had test after test but they could not give me a confirmed diagnosis of what type of Leukemia I had, in the mean time my WBC and Lymphocytes continue to rise to critical levels (170,000). Without a confirmed diagnosis I couldn’t start treatment, another bone marrow biopsy in December finally confirmed that I had T-cell-Prolymphocytic Leukemia (T-PLL), T-PLL is an extremely rare aggressive disease that requires immediate treatment. In January I was signed off work to start treatment at the TBCC in Calgary for treatment 3 times a week with an immune suppressing drug called Alemtuzumab.
My last blood test showed that my WBC are at 6.1 and Lymphocytes are at 0.0, so the drug is working well and now I start the next phase of looking for a stem cell donor (my treatment continues until a donor is found), a stem cell transplant will set me on the road to recovery, it will be a long hard process including a month stay in TBCC with intense chemo to destroy my bone marrow before the stem cell process starts, I will require expensive drugs to help the stem cells to start producing healthy blood cells and looking at 6 to 9 months before I can be well again to return to work.
With round travel of 300kms from Innisfail to Calgary and back plus parking it all adds up, my treatment lasts for 4hrs and with traveling it makes it a long day, in March I will be on Long Term Disability with a much-reduced pay cheque and having to pay my own benefits of $1200, I need to keep my health benefits going otherwise the cost of my drugs would be too much. Diane takes me to Calgary for every treatment session because I cannot drive with the drugs in my system, plus she works part-time in the evening and then when she does get a day off she visits her mother who is on palliative care, she takes care of her mother by picking up and washing her clothes, buying any supplies and paying her bills. I don’t want the stress of being a financial burden on her and don’t want Diane worrying about bills. She is my inspiration and my rock!.
Anything helps, I’m kicking this Leukemia to sh@t!