Meet the woman who fought an incurable blood cancer '“ and is now taking on a 310-mile cycle rideÂ

Lisa Anderson has always been sporty. She loves to run, swim and cycle, has completed marathons and mini triathlons and adores physical challenges.Â

Tuesday, 14th August 2018, 3:39 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd September 2018, 10:05 pm
Lisa Anderson with husband Ian Bailey. Lisa has terminal bloody cancer but is determined to keep going

It's no surprise then that next month she is cycling to Paris with her husband Ian Bailey, 50. 

That's until you discover that just 18 months ago Lisa, now 43, was so ill with incurable blood cancer she almost died. 

The treatment for myeloma '“ which attacked her bone marrow and caused her ribs, spine and pelvis to disintegrate '“ was punishing, to say the least. 

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Lisa Anderson with husband Ian Bailey. Lisa has terminal bloody cancer but is determined to keep going

Doctors blasted her with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stripped her of her immune system in order to carry out a stem cell transplant. Which makes her decision to undertake a 310-mile cycle ride even more astonishing. 

Here, Lisa, a sales director from Southsea, explains. 

'˜I started to feel unwell in December 2015. It was a general feeling of tiredness and I was losing weight.

'˜In March 2016 I was running for the Eurostar train when I tripped. I put my arm out to save my face, and I thought, 'Oh, gee, that really hurts'.'

Lisa Anderson with husband Ian Bailey. They are gearing up for a 300-mile cycle ride for Myeloma UK

An initial X-ray revealed no broken bones but she was in agony and began to suffer '˜horrific' night sweats which Lisa put down to the menopause. Visits to doctors '“ even private consultants '“ offered no answers and it came to the point where she was in so much pain she couldn't walk. 

On a Friday night in September 2016, while her husband was away in Miami, she went to stay with her mother and simply broke down in despair. Her mother took her to Queen Alexandra Hospital's A&E  '“ and she didn't leave for six weeks. 

She says: '˜They (medics) were brilliant. I was petrified that I was going to be left paralysed. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I had cancer.'

Doctors discovered Lisa had lamda light-chain myeloma, a condition so rare GPs will probably only see two cases in their entire careers. 

Lisa Anderson in hospital during treatment for Myeloma UK

It usually affects dark-skinned men over the age of 65. It was destroying her bone marrow and attacked her ribs, sternum, spine and pelvis. She was put in a body brace for 18 weeks to hold her bones together.

There were months of gruelling bone hardening drugs, chemetherapy, radiotherapy and then stem cell treatment to go through. 

She says: '˜They threw absolutely everything at me. But myeloma is not curable. You can knock it back and put it to sleep but it will come back.'

To undergo the stem cell transplant she had a final blast of chemotherpay to clear out any active myeloma and then harvest the stem cells '“ which are in the bone marrow. 

Likening it to a factory reset of a mobile phone, Lisa says: '˜It's very clever. They take your immune system back to zero. They clear your own stem cells then put them back in straight away. You begin to really decline and feel very unwell, absolutely rotten. Then the new stem cells start to work and you feel better. They say two years after all of that it will come back. And next March it will be two years but I'm absolutely determined to keep it away for longer. 

'˜But after the second stem cell transplant, myeloma works out what you've been blasting it with and and it becomes more resistant.' The NHS will not pay for a third transplant because the effectiveness is massively reduced. 

The two-monthly tests have been clear and Lisa is not currently on any medication. But her immune system is so suppressed it takes weeks to shake a cold. 

'˜Emotionally, I'm better now' she says. '˜The mind has a very clever way of coping. Now I don't think about it for seven weeks until I get a blood test. Then it's very much the focus of my mind. 

'˜There have been very dark moments. Twice I thought I was going to die. Once at the beginning, and then due to an infection during the stem cell transplant. I thought that was it.'

Myeloma has caused Lisa and Ian to make big changes in their lives. 

Lisa says: '˜I have always just loved life. Previous to this, life was great. Yes, it had it's trials and tribulations but you live the best you can. 

'˜I would never wish this upon anybody but it's worse for the people around you. When you're the patient you listen to the doctors. You have no choice, you have to believe them and put yourself in their hands. 

'˜It has made us reevaluate what we do. We were work alcoholics.

'˜Now I work part-time and my husband takes more time off work. We were working hard to retire at 55. 

'˜That's not going to happen now we but we are going to have a much more balanced life.'

 

'˜Anxious but determined' '“ the ride for life

Together with husband Ian and four friends they are cycling to Paris on September 5, a tough 310-mile, four-day journey. 

They are raising money for the charity Myeloma UK to try and find a cure for the rare cancer. 

Lisa says: '˜I am a bit anxious but I've been putting in a lot of training. I'm absolutely determined to finish it. 

'˜I think it's probably going to be really emotional when I actually cross the finish line. People are coming over to see us in Paris, including my friend who was pregnant while I was going through treatment. 

'˜The cyclists coming with us have decided to do this rather than go on holidays. They are spending their time and money fundraising for Myeloma UK. I think they are amazing.'

Lisa has put together a website, targetmyeloma.co.uk, which details her battle with cancer, from the point of diagnosis, in order to give others hope. 

To sponsor Lisa and her team, go to 

justgiving.com/fundraising/lisaandersonsouthsea. You can also follow the team on facebook.com/TargetMyeloma/ and on Twitter @targetmyeloma.