Mum’s sleepless nights with new baby hid her leukaemia symptoms for months

When Chloe Dixon welcomed her first child in October 2017, she went through the normal sleepless nights.

With a newborn to care for, she knew she would be exhausted but as her daughter got older, Chloe wasn’t feeling any better.

By July the following year, with her little girl settling more, Chloe, 33, from Buckinghamshire, went to the doctor to ask why she was still so tired.

Initially, the doctor said it was just stress and part of being a new mum but agreed to run a blood test.

The next day, Chloe got a life-changing call to tell her that her white blood cells were very high.

Just days later, she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia – a type of blood cancer that cannot be cured but can be managed with chemotherapy drugs.

Chloe said ‘When I had my daughter, it was a difficult birth and then I went into being up all hours of the night.

‘I was exhausted and it was hard to look after myself properly. I felt really tired but thought it was just part of having a baby.

‘When she got older, I was still just as tired and I started to get these pressure headaches that felt like an elastic band around my forehead.

‘Thank goodness the doctor did that blood test. White blood cells are usually between 4,000 and 10,000 – mone were at 44,000 so I knew as soon as they told me that there was a problem.’

Chloe was referred to a haematologist and had a bone marrow biopsy, which confirmed she had cancer.

She adds: ‘Before the blood test, I didn’t know anything about blood cancer.

‘When I got the results of that initial test, I turned to google and learnt that there are lots of different kinds of blood cancer.

‘Mine is chronic and slow growing but I was reading about the acute, aggressive type and it is really scary.’

After her diagnosis, Chloe was put on chemotherapy tablets which initially caused flu-like symptoms.

She says: ‘It was pretty awful and I think the fatigue actually got worse at first, but once my body started to get used to the tablets and the routine of taking them, it was better.’

To deal with her diagnosis and to help others in a similar situation, Chloe decided to start a blog and Instagram page to document her journey.

She says: ‘The 11 days of being diagnosed were the worst of my life.

‘I was happily married with a baby and I was thinking the worst. I started to think things like “I won’t be here to see her first birthday”.

‘I started writing a diary to help myself. I was looking on the internet to find people affected by this but I couldn’t find a lot in my age group – it often affects young children and older people.

‘I wanted to find some positive experiences to give me some hope and guidance.

‘I decided to start my own and I have a blog that I update every three months with my stats, symptoms and how I am feeling. I want someone else who has been diagnosed to have an example of where they could be in three months, six months, a year etc.’

Once she started the blog, Chloe decided to add another element – baking.

She adds: ‘About a week after starting it, I wasn’t well enough to work but my brain still needed stimulation.

‘I had always wanted to learn how to bake – I had dreams of being that mum that baked their children’s birthday cakes.

‘I was useless when I started off but I just kept going. That’s where the name for my blog Cake Away Cancer came from.’

After building up a following, Chloe started running a monthly baking competition alongside her account called @Cakeawaycookbook.

‘Baking has been a real distraction and it keeps my creative side active.

‘Sometimes I’m not up to doing lots but I might make cupcakes and put them in the freezer to ice another day.

‘It gives me a real sense of accomplishment. I can do it with my daughter now too, which is lovely.’

The account has also helped her make friends and find support on the internet.

‘Social media can get a bad rep but it has been amazing for me. I have people asking questions.

‘It’s really allowed me to reach out and connect with people going through similar experiences.’

Chloe’s cancer is now in remission as the number of white blood cells have plateaued at 0.053% (from 98%).

She will need to take chemotherapy tablets for the rest of her life to control this.

Unfortunately, you can’t take the tablets while you are pregnant and as Chloe and her partner would like another child, she knows she would have to risk coming off the tablets to expand their family.

They hope that she will be able to stop them temporarily and be carefully monitored throughout another pregnancy.

For Chloe, the chronic nature of her cancer means that people don’t always understand.

She says: ‘There are two sides to it because I didn’t tell a lot of people and I quite liked being able to go out without people asking me about it.

‘But sometimes I do need help and people don’t realise because I look fine.’

Chloe is now taking part in a new podcast by Macmillan to help people understand more about what it’s like going through cancer.

She adds: ‘Each episode covers a different element of having or living with cancer. I have just done the one about diagnosis.

‘I want to raise awareness. I waited five weeks of having headaches before I went to the doctor. That was abnormal for me and I knew that but I just put it down to stress and exhaustion.

‘I want people to know that if you feel a change in your body, go and see the doctor.

‘I loved being part of the podcast and helping Macmillan is really important to me because they provided so much information and support from day one.’