Multiple Myeloma


In 1996 Anne had a routine blood test to see if she could continue with her hormone replacement therapy.


The blood sample was sent to the hospital for analysis. Shortly after, she received a letter from the hospital saying that there had been an “incidental” finding of higher than usual protein in her blood.


Further tests found that she had multiple myeloma which is a cancer of the blood. Myeloma is a terminal cancer and has no known cure. Victims are unlikely to live longer than four years after first diagnosis.


The protein is generated in the bone marrow. On release into the blood, it replaces the red corpuscles that carry oxygen around the body. Oxygen deprivation results. The protein eventually collects in the kidneys. If Myeloma is not caught early enough, death usually results from kidney failure. The immune system is also attacked. Eventually, the cancer starts to eat holes in the bones making them painful and liable to break. The progress of Myeloma can be delayed by chemotherapy but inevitably such therapy becomes ineffective. Anne had several kinds of chemotherapy including injected interferon and thalidomide. She also had many blood transfusions which were difficult because of her rare blood group.


Anne’s blood pressure started to vary, sometimes reaching exceptionally high levels. At one stage, her blood pressure went as high as 240 mm Hg which is twice the normal blood pressure. Her retinas became covered with small blood clots. She had a mild stroke during this period.


Her immune system was so degraded that even a cold could have proved fatal.


The cancer started to produce worryingly large holes in her femurs. Hartlepool  hospital placed metal rods down the centre of each femur to prevent them breaking. The James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough irradiated her legs in an attempt to prevent the holes from getting larger. 


In January 2004 Anne got a stapphyloccocal aureus infection in her trachea (windpipe). The lining of her trachea swelled up within an hour so that she could no longer breathe. She was rushed to the James Cook Hospital where she had a tube put down her trachea. However, her systems had already begun to shut down and she was placed in a special room in the intensive care unit. Her bodily functions were all controlled by machine. She was given a whole series of different antibiotics. She was there for a week before the hospital consultants agreed that it was safe to wake her up and transfer her to a normal private ward. Two weeks later, she was allowed home.


In April 2004, Anne was in the bathroom when her back suddenly gave way. The myeloma had eaten her backbone to such an extent that it became severed, paralysing her lower body.


She was taken to the hospital in Hartlepool where she was sedated with morphine. After a few days she died with kidney failure and complications caused by the myeloma.


Throughout all of the time and experiences described above, Anne continued to be incredibly active, apparently happy and never complained about her condition.