A rare diagnosis
Lynne McLean was only 38 years old when she was diagnosed with myeloma, a rare and incurable type of blood cancer that affects the plasma cells in the bone marrow. She had been feeling unwell for months, with symptoms such as fatigue, back pain, weight loss, and frequent infections. She initially thought it was due to stress, as she was working as a nurse and caring for her two young children. But when she went to the doctor for a routine blood test, she was shocked to learn that she had cancer.
Myeloma is a very aggressive and unpredictable disease, with an average survival rate of only five years. Lynne was told that she had only a few weeks or months left to live, and that she needed to start chemotherapy immediately. She was devastated by the news, and feared that she would not see her children grow up. She said: “I was in complete disbelief. I had never heard of myeloma before, and I couldn’t understand how I could have such a serious condition. I felt like my life was over.”
A life-saving treatment
Lynne underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer did not respond well to the treatment. She was running out of options, and her condition was deteriorating rapidly. She said: “I was in constant pain, and I had no energy. I couldn’t do anything for myself, let alone for my kids. I was losing hope, and I started to plan my funeral.”
However, Lynne was given a glimmer of hope when she was offered a chance to participate in a clinical trial for a new treatment called CAR-T therapy. This is a type of immunotherapy that uses the patient’s own immune cells, called T cells, to fight the cancer. The T cells are collected from the patient’s blood, genetically modified in a laboratory to recognize and attack the cancer cells, and then infused back into the patient’s body.
Lynne agreed to try the experimental treatment, even though it was very risky and had no guarantee of success. She said: “I had nothing to lose, and I wanted to give myself a chance to live. I was willing to try anything that could help me.”
Lynne travelled to London, where she received the CAR-T therapy at the University College Hospital. She was the first person in Scotland, and one of the first in the UK, to receive this treatment for myeloma. She spent several weeks in isolation, as the therapy weakened her immune system and made her vulnerable to infections. She also experienced some severe side effects, such as fever, nausea, and confusion. She said: “It was a very tough and scary time. I didn’t know if the treatment was working, or if I would survive. I missed my family so much, and I prayed every day that I would see them again.”
A miraculous recovery
To everyone’s astonishment, Lynne’s CAR-T therapy was a success. The treatment eliminated all the cancer cells from her body, and she achieved a complete remission. She said: “I couldn’t believe it when the doctors told me the news. I was over the moon, and I cried tears of joy. It was a miracle.”
Lynne returned to her home in Ayrshire, where she was reunited with her husband, Graham, and her children, Evan and Erin. She said: “It was the best feeling in the world to hug my family again. They were my motivation and my strength throughout this ordeal. They never gave up on me, and I am so grateful for their love and support.”
Lynne is now enjoying her new lease of life, and is looking forward to the future. She said: “I feel like a new person, and I appreciate every moment. I don’t take anything for granted, and I try to live each day to the fullest. I have so much to live for, and I am determined to make the most of it.”
Lynne is also keen to raise awareness and funds for Cancer Research UK, the charity that funded the clinical trial that saved her life. She said: “I owe my life to Cancer Research UK, and I want to give something back. I want to help other people who are going through what I went through, and I want to support the research that can find a cure for this terrible disease. I am living proof that cancer can be beaten, and that there is always hope.”