A FAMILY has been left reeling after a second member was diagnosed with a serious illness almost by accident.
Mum Caroline Nightingale claims contracting meningitis helped save her life after a visit to the hospital revealed she was also suffering from a chronic form of leukaemia.
The shock diagnosis came just a year after son Jonny was found to have a serious heart defect after a trip to the hospital suffering a leg injury picked up while playing football.
The 14-year-old has since undergone pioneering heart surgery and is recovering well, although he has since been diagnosed as also suffering from ME.
Dad Kevin, of Millfield Gardens, Crowland, said: “Our family has battled through an awful lot.
“What happened to Caroline was exactly one year after Jonny’s problem – so now we are just taking one day at a time.”
Caroline (44), a teaching assistant at University Academy Holbeach, is now receiving treatment for the chronic myeloid leukaemia, which fortunately was picked up at an early stage.
The disease is a rare form of cancer that causes the body to make too many white blood cells.
About 700 people are diagnosed with it each year in UK.
She said: “I count myself fortunate. Getting meningitis may have saved my life.
“Had I been diagnosed with it at a later stage it could have progressed and made treatment difficult.
“When I was told I had leukaemia it was a massive shock and very difficult to take in at first.
“I had had meningitis three times before so I knew the symptoms but never thought it would be anything else as well.
“But when I got to the hospital I could tell staff were worried because my white blood cell count was still high despite the treatment I was getting.”
There is no cure for the type of leukaemia Caroline has, but early diagnosis and recent medical advances mean the mother-of-four should be able to lead a normal life.
She will have to take tablets every day and put up with a few side effects.
She added: “I will feel tired more often but should be able to do most normal things.”
Kevin, who has been trying to raise awareness of heart problems in children since Jonny’s operation at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, London, last May, now aims to extend his campaign to raise awareness of chronic myeloid leukaemia as well.
He added: “Leukaemia has been in the news recently with Stiliyan Petrov, the Aston Villa player, contracting it.
“But I want to try to do more to raise awareness, but my immediate priorities are to spend time looking after Caroline.”