September 26, 2019
When Chloe Dixon gave birth to her daughter, Darcy, in October 2017, she wasn’t surprised to feel exhausted in the days that followed. 
I Thought My Tiredness Was Down To Being A New Mum, But It Turned Out To Be Cancer
She’d had a difficult birth that lasted over 30 hours and when days of exhaustion turned into weeks, then months, she figured she just needed more time to adjust.
The fact that fatigue is a common symptom of multiple cancers didn’t register. 
“Everyone told me – and I was telling myself – that that’s just what it feels like to be a new parent,” Dixon, 32, from Buckinghamshire, tells HuffPost UK. “You’ve got sleepless nights and your emotions, hormones and anxiety levels are all over the place.”
Her rapid weight loss, she thought, was a result of the “baby weight” falling away. It wasn’t until six months later, when Dixon started to experience intense pressure headaches – “like having a tight elastic band around your head” – that she realised something might be wrong. She visited an optician, who confirmed it wasn’t a problem with her eyesight, then her GP. “The doctor said it probably wasn’t anything to worry about because I was still a fairly new mum, but referred me for blood tests anyway just to make sure my levels were all okay,” she recalls. 
A blood test showed her white blood count was 44,000, when the average is between 4,000-10,000. Doctors immediately referred her for further tests, including a bone marrow biopsy.
Just 11 days later, in July 2018, Dixon was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) – a type of slowly progressing blood cancer that will likely affect her for life. Waiting for the results while caring for a nine-month-old baby was like “living in hell”, she says. 
“I knew that by sending me for a bone marrow biopsy they were looking for something sinister, so I googled the hell out of it, as you do. I self-diagnosed myself with leukaemia, but I didn’t know what type of leukaemia it was.
“They were the worst 11 days of my life, holding my little girl and thinking I might not be around for her first birthday.”
She admits it “might sound mad”, but receiving the diagnosis was a relief, particularly when doctors explained that CML is slow to progress. Within a week, she began treatment in the form of targeted chemotherapy tablets called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). The tablets, which Dixon takes four times each day, work by stopping the cancer cells from growing and multiplying. While there is currently no cure for Dixon’s form of CML, the tablets can keep the disease under control, but they take some getting used to.
“In those first few weeks I felt like I had the flu constantly, my legs ached, my spleen ached and I had really bad mouth ulcers, to the point where I had 12 at once and could barely talk and eat,” Dixon recalls.
Her body has now adjusted to the medication, but she’s still affected by fatigue and has only been able to return to her job as a primary school teacher for half a day each week.
The aim of the tablets is for Dixon to enter remission, meaning she has a low amount of cancer in her body. However, she is likely to require the tablets for life. Doctors strongly advice patients taking TKIs do not fall pregnant, due to the risk of mutations and subsequent genetic disorders for the foetus. For Dixon, who has always wanted a big family, this has been the hardest part of treatment. 
She hopes to enter remission within a year and if she stays in remission for a further two years after that, doctors have agreed she can temporarily come off the tablets in order to try for a second child with her husband. Although her cancer may grow during this time. 
“It is a slightly scary thing, but the reward that I’ll get at the end of it will outweigh it all. To have a sibling for Darcy would mean the world to me,” she says.
The mum is sharing her story because she wants to empower other new parents to ask for help when they need it, particularly if they’re feeling unwell.  
“I had wanted to be a mum for such a long time and this miracle had suddenly happened, so I didn’t want to moan about it then,” she says. “But my biggest regret is that I didn’t ask for help sooner when I was really exhausted. I was proud and I just thought ‘this is what every mum goes through’. So I just pushed on and pushed on and pushed on.”She’s also set up an Instagram account and blog – Cake Away Cancer – detailing her life as a thirty-something with cancer because when she was first diagnosed, she struggled to find personal stories from people her age. 
“Where I’m at now, a year on, is a really good place and if I’d read that when I was being diagnosed it would have really reassured me and given me hope,” she says.
Discovering a love of baking has also helped her to stay positive, providing a creative outlet that isn’t physically gruelling. She burnt everything at first, she jokes, but her blog is now filled with Bake Off-worthy creations. Last week, she even hosted a Macmillan Coffee Morning.
For any new mums who feel embarrassed or guilty about asking for help, Dixon recommends taking baby steps, by opening up to friends and family if you’re not ready to visit a doctor.  
“If you’re feeling poorly, or if you’re feeling under the weather or anxious, the best thing to do is talk about it and get help early,” she says. “As they say, a happy mum is a happy baby.”
Help Macmillan be there for people like Chloe by joining Macmillan’s Coffee Morning this September. Macmillan is almost entirely funded by donations and simply cannot support the growing number of people with cancer without your help. Sign up at coffeeregister.macmillan.org.uk   READ MORE: 'I Was Told It Was Women's Problems': Meet The Ovarian Cancer Patients Who Fought For Diagnosis And Treatment Half Of New Mums Get Less Than 3 Minutes To Discuss Mental Health, Survey Finds Having Kids Later In Life Isn't Selfish (And 4 More Myths About Older Mums Busted)
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