When Kelly Shields’ husband Daryl was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia at the tender age of 33, the Omagh woman decided to devote her time to raising awareness for the illness.
Now an ambassador for Leukemia & Lymphoma NI, a charity based in Queen’s University, Belfast, she recently took part in fund-raising campaign held at the Ulster American Folk Park to support other people diagnosed with blood cancers.
The year-long campaign entitled ‘99 Red Balloons’ sees charity representatives visit iconic locations around Northern Ireland as 99 people are diagnosed with Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma every month in the country.
“This charity is very close to my heart because Leukemia is something that now affects my everyday life,” said Kelly.
“It is important that I can spread a positive message about the advancements in cancer treatments, and keep raising money and awareness so that blood cancer research can continue to be done.”
It was in the early stages of 2013 when Kelly realised that there was “something wrong” with her husband.
“Daryl became very sick in the months leading up to his diagnosis,” she explained. “He began to have heavy nose bleeds, lose his eye sight and suffer severe bruising on his knees. We just didn’t know what to think.”
After visiting the Omagh Health Centre in February 2013 for a potential diagnosis of the illness, the couple were advised to visit a specialist in the Altnagelvin Hospital immediately.
After Daryl underwent a full day of medical examinations at the Derry hospital, a specialist confirmed that Daryl had Leukemia.
“As Daryl’s wife, I felt totally helpless and he was very scared,” Kelly said.
“Things like this just come out of nowhere, and ‘cancer’ is a terrifying word. Neither of us knew how to react. We just stared and sat in silence.”
However, it did not take long for doctors to accept Daryl onto a clinic trial tablet, Dasatinib, which will help control the illness for the rest of his life.
CONTINUE EVERY DAY LIFE
Though side-effects from using the daily drug include severe fatigue, aching bones, nausea and a skin rash, Kelly is grateful that her husband is able to “continue with his every day life.”
“Some days are more difficult for him than others, but we just have to deal with each day as it comes,” she said.
“I know inside that I’m incredibly lucky that my husband is still here with me.”
Describing the Leukemia & Lymphoma NI charity as “very personal cause”, so far Kelly has raised over £2,686 for the charity.
“It’s important to be positive and strive for a world without cancer,” Kelly concluded. “Blood cancer treatments have progressed so much in the last three years, but there’s still more that can be done.
“By raising money for this charity, I know that people’s lives can and will change for the better.”
To donate to the charity, text BALL06 £5 to 70070. For more information, visit: www.leukaemiaandlymphomani.org