Every 20 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer. An average of 2,000 people in the UK are seeking a matching tissue type each year.

Mandy Islam, an officer with the Army Medical Directorate (AMD), was diagnosed with blood cancer in May this year and continues her battle. She shared her story with Army&You


I sustained a knee injury while out running in December 2014; however, after nearly four months of rest and self-help pain relief, I could barely walk.

I visited the med centre but was referred for an urgent MRI as my swollen and hot knee didn’t tie in with my accident.

The MRI revealed a fracture and further X-rays showed significant abnormalities in the same area. I immediately underwent a CT biopsy, which confirmed that I have cancer.

The cancerous lesions were a-typical of myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer accounting for one per cent of UK presentations. Typically found in the spinal vertebrae in patients aged around 70, at 35, I definitely don’t fit the norm.

I underwent treatment from the leading myeloma specialist and her team and was later told that I also had cancer in my right kidney.

Sadly, like one third of patients, I may not live to see out a year. However, I do not intend to be in this statistic, I want to live.

Chemotherapy began in earnest in July.

My experience has been challenging. Dealing with my own mortality has been particularly tough. I’ve been on operational tours so have asked myself the normal questions we all do as soldiers, but there’s nothing at all that can prepare you for this.

After chemotherapy, and a period of recovery, I’ll receive my first stem cell transplant over several weeks. My immune system will be too vulnerable for me to leave hospital.

After another recovery period, I’ll be hospitalised for an exceptionally high-risk, donor-led stem cell transplant.

Sadly, like one third of patients, I may not live to see out a year. However, I do not intend to be in this statistic, I want to live.

Thankfully, the support I’ve received has been glorious and hugely overwhelming. I’m truly blessed to be so well looked after. I haven’t attended one single medical appointment alone and I have a chemotherapy buddy each week – including my brigadier.

Please give someone a chance of life. Without you, there is no hope for people like me.

To aid my healing, I routinely undergo reiki, energy work and body realignment therapy with my mother who is a reiki master; this has made a phenomenal difference to my wellbeing.

The Andover Support Unit has been incredible and AMD has made me feel exceptionally valued. I’d like to thank my director, Brigadier Martin Nadin, Lt Col Andrew Taylor and Lt Col Heather Saunders for their love and support.

I’m currently writing a book, Thirteenth Leaf Clover. Thirteen because I’m number thirteen in the world with this medical presentation and clover because I intend to live. I’m a fighter and an optimist.

I want to reach out to people in similar situations, their relatives, friends and the curious, to tell them that it can be ok. Illness is how we choose to deal with it; it needn’t be full of fear.

Please give someone a chance of life. Without you, there is no hope for people like me.

Could you be a donor?

Discover how you can help Mandy and others to beat blood cancer by registering to become a donor; visit Delete Blood Cancer at www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk and quote MDY001, or visit Anthony Nolan at www.anthonynolan.org

If you’d like Mandy to come to your barracks or community and present with either charity, contact AFF at dircomms@aff.org.uk

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