Kirsten Hawksey, from Liverpool, was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia on November 27
A 23-year-old mother died on Christmas Day less than four weeks after she was diagnosed with blood cancer when she asked medics to look at bruises on her legs.
Kirsten Hawksey, who ‘idolised’ her 15-month-old daughter Penelope, was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia on November 27.
In her last post on Facebook, Ms Hawksey, from Liverpool, thanked her family and friends for persuading her to go to the doctors and urged people to ‘not ignore any symptom’.
Her father Neil said his ‘gorgeous and strong-willed’ daughter had noticed bruising on her legs which she initially ignored.
After the bruising worsened Ms Hawksey went to the doctors and, following blood tests, was immediately admitted to the Royal to begin chemotherapy.
But, on Christmas Eve, Ms Hawksey – who celebrated her birthday just weeks earlier – contracted a lung infection and was transferred to Wythenshawe Hospital, in Greater Manchester.
Her immune system had crashed and the young mother was put on life support and a lung-bypass machine.
After the bruising worsened Ms Hawksey(pictured with her daughter, Penelope) went to the doctors and, following blood tests, was immediately admitted to the Royal to begin chemotherapy
On December 25, Ms Hawksey suffered a bleed on the brain and later that day her family made the heartbreaking decision to turn off her life support machine.
Now her family want to help spread her last message.
Neil Hawksey said: ‘We didn’t even know she had posted that message on Facebook – Kirsten was very private so it was a massive shock that she had.
‘But she obviously wanted to raise awareness and that is why we are speaking out to honour her wishes.’
The 39-year-old, from Crosby, said his daughter felt perfectly ‘normal’ in the days leading up to her diagnosis, apart from noticing some unexplained bruising.
He said: ‘She was fit and well apart from this bruising.
In her last post on Facebook, Ms Hawksey thanked her family and friends for persuading her to go to the doctors
‘We said ‘go to the doctors’ but she said ‘I’m alright’ – she just thought it was from the baby.
‘But it got to the point when she was in the house and she showed us her legs and we said you need to do to the doctors.
‘The bruises looked like – what I can only describe as when you have been paintballing.
‘Doctors asked her if she had felt tired and she said “yes but not exceptionally so”.
‘She had a 15-month-old daughter and worked full time – she was bound to be tired. We thought she could be anaemic or something.
‘She actually Googled the symptom and it came back saying leukaemia. But it was just laughed off, because she wasn’t sick.’
After a week or so of being pestered by her friends and family Ms Hawksey, a dental nurse, eventually went to the doctors.
Following blood tests doctors delivered the devastating news she had Acute promyelocytic leukaemia – a cancer of the white blood cells.
However, despite the seriousness of her condition, Mr Hawksey said his daughter remained positive.
On December 25, Ms Hawksey suffered a bleed on the brain and later that day her family made the heartbreaking decision to turn off her life support machine
‘It was weird hearing the doctors say how ill she actually was, because she was sitting there laughing and joking with me.
‘Kirsten was not the type of girl who would moan or complain.
‘She wasn’t a “why me?” type. She was so strong willed and she just planned to fight it and get on with life.
‘She would never have given up fighting because of her daughter – she idolised her and completely loved her to bits.
Ms Hawksey’s family want to raise awareness about the symptoms of Leukemia following her tragic death
‘But sadly things were taken out of her control.’
Mr Hawksey, who also has a 16-year-old son Jack, said it was ‘catastrophic’ when doctors told him and wife Emma that their daughter had suffered a bleed on the brain.
He said the whole family just felt ‘completely numb’, adding: ‘It doesn’t feel real at the moment to be honest.
‘When we were told it was leukaemia I asked “why Kirsten? Was it anything she did?” But doctors said she is just unlucky.
‘There is no reason. She wasn’t a smoker – she drank very little, she was a hardworking, loving and gorgeous mum, daughter and granddaughter.’
Mr Hawksey added: ‘We would not usually speak out like this but it was Kirsten’s last wish.
‘We have had so much support from family and friends and have even had messages from people who don’t even know us which is overwhelming.
‘We are devastated and I don’t know what we would have done without Penelope. But we will make sure she never forgets her mum.’
WHAT IS ACUTE PROMYELOCYTIC LEUKAEMIA?
Acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML) is a rare and aggressive form of the blood cancer
Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells. Acute leukaemia means the condition progresses rapidly and aggressively, requiring immediate treatment.
Acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML) is a rare form of the Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), the form of the disease which affects the myeloid cells.
APML accounts for around 10 -15 per cent of all cases of AML.
The myleloid cells perform a number of different functions, such as fighting bacterial infections, defending the body against parasites and preventing the spread of tissue damage.
In APML a change in a specific chromosome leads to a changes in white blood cells called Promyelocyte cells, which means they do not progress to maturity.
This leads to a bleeding disorder due to abnormal clotting.
The symptoms include pale skin, tiredness, breathlessness, frequent infections, and unusual and frequent bleeding, such as bleeding gums or nosebleeds.
The main treatment for AML is chemotherapy, which is used to kill as many leukaemia cells in your body as possible and reduce the risk of the condition coming back (relapsing).
In some cases, intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be needed, in combination with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, to achieve a cure.
Studies have shown that people with acute promyeloid leukaemia (APML), around 85 per cent will live for at least five years with treatment.
Source: NHS Choices