Phoebe Moore and her brother Angus have both survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a rare blood cancer. When Phoebe was 11, her brother was diagnosed with ALL. At the time, it was difficult for her to understand the severity of the situation, yet after seeing the effects chemotherapy and the pain he experienced, she realized this was a life or death matter.
Angus was 14 when he was diagnosed, and he battled the disease for several years before going into remission. At last, the family felt normal again. Yet at 19, five years after Angus defeated his cancer, Phoebe began feeling tremendous pain in her lower back. Four months later, she too was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which on average affects only 1% of the population a year.
Angus had a hard time with his sister’s diagnosis. Despite not feeling the side effects as acutely as brother, she lost all of her hair as a result of the chemotherapy. Fortunately, Phoebe was admitted to a Teenage Cancer Trust Ward at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, which gave her a support network of people her own age, something Angus hadn’t had. A month later, she was told she was in remission. Yet a year later, the cancer returned and that she would need a bone marrow transplant as well as radiotherapy, which meant she had to remain isolation.
Phoebe will need treatment for two years as well as regular check-ups. She says that her advice to people dealing with cancer is to share their feelings and confide in others. After finishing her treatment, she hopes to become a paramedic in order to use her experience to help others.
“The chances of my brother and I both getting diagnosed with ALL is extremely rare and I have times where it feels really unfair. But it’s brought us closer than ever as a family and I feel grateful for the amazing bond I now have with Angus,” Phoebe says.
According to the NHS, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells, advances rapidly and aggressively and requires urgent treatment. Both adults and children can be affected. Though acute lymphoblastic leukemia is very rare, with approximately 650 people diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK, it is the most common type of childhood leukemia. Half of all cases are diagnosed in adults and half in children. In children, 85% of cases occur in those younger than 15, and it is usually more common in males than females.
Nearly all children diagnosed will go into remission and 85% will be completely cured. Adults, on the other hand, have a less promising outlook. Approximately 40% of people between the ages of 25 and 64 will live for five years or more after being diagnosed. In those 65 and older, nearly 15% will live for five years or more after being diagnosed.