A father-of-three who was told he looked like “Casper the ghost” before being identified with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and given three weeks to dwell, which means he has deliberate his personal Requiem Mass and funeral, has defied medical doctors’ expectations by outliving his prognosis by greater than a yr and mentioned he goes to “keep fighting”.
Dennis Blackman, 62, a former chartered constructing surveyor and carer who lives in Eltham, London, mentioned he has at all times been lively – taking part in rugby, lifting weights, and going to the fitness center not less than 3 times every week. However this all modified when he suffered an sudden stroke in 2015.
His well being deteriorated over the following years, he had a hip alternative at 58, and after experiencing signs of maximum exhaustion, chilly arms, and muscle weak spot in early 2022, his spouse Sally, 62, a former flooring showroom supervisor, prompt he e book a physician’s appointment.
After weeks of blood checks and blood transfusions in hospital and being told he looked like “Casper the ghost” as a result of he was so pale, he underwent a bone marrow biopsy, and this led to the devastating information in March 2022 that he has AML – a sort of blood cancer – and three weeks to dwell.
Dennis told PA Real Life: “I just broke down and I had this unbelievable feeling of guilt because I said to the consultant: ‘What have I done wrong? How do I tell my children and wife?’
“It’s a huge burden to put on someone, to tell them that you’re dying and it’s going to be very quick.
“We had many dark days, and every time I looked into my children’s eyes I just burst into tears… it was a very emotional period for all of us.”
Dennis, who has misplaced 50kg (7st 9lbs) since his diagnosis, didn’t begin chemotherapy till months later resulting from him being too weak, and in January 2023, he was told the chemotherapy was “not working any more”.
From that time on, he mentioned he wished to “enjoy each day” reasonably than pursuing extra aggressive types of therapy – and since then, he has deliberate his personal Requiem Mass with hymns equivalent to How Great Thou Art and Ave Maria (As I Kneel Before You), in addition to the preparations for his funeral.
Now, Dennis continues to drive, buy groceries, and take pleasure in time along with his household, and he mentioned he goes to “keep fighting” throughout the time he has left as “you only have one life”.
“Every day you go to bed and you think: ‘Am I going to wake up tomorrow?’ And then each morning you think: ‘Is it going to be today that I’m going to die?’” Dennis defined.
“It was extremely difficult in the beginning and I tried to shut the world out… but as time went on, I realised you can’t live like this forever.
“You only get one life, so I’m going to do everything I can to keep fighting.”
During his 40s and early 50s, Dennis mentioned he loved going out for meals along with his spouse Sally, taking part in rugby along with his sons James, 37, and Joe, 31, and protecting match by going to the fitness center a number of instances every week.
He foresaw spending his days in retirement along with his household, out in the backyard, or fishing, however he mentioned this all modified when he had a stroke in 2015, aged 54, and his well being declined from then on.
In early 2022, he spent six weeks at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London after noticing some uncommon signs and was told: “You look like Casper (the ghost), you’re very anaemic.”
He then underwent a number of blood checks and blood transfusions, and though he had “an idea” that he might have cancer, he mentioned he might by no means have ready himself for his diagnosis on March 31 2022.
“About one o’clock, I had a knock at the door and I thought: ‘That’s ominous’,” Dennis mentioned.
“The consultant and the specialist nurse came in and they said: ‘Unfortunately it’s bad news, you’ve got severe AML and there’s not a lot we can do at this stage.’
“’You’ve got three weeks to live, and I’d advise you to go home and tell your wife and family, and make sure everything’s in order because you haven’t got long left’.”
Given Dennis has extreme neutropenia as nicely – a low variety of white blood cells – he is at a better danger of contracting critical infections, and this meant he missed a number of household celebrations in the months that adopted, together with his grandson’s celebration and stepdaughter’s wedding ceremony.
He developed a number of chest infections and fevers and was not deemed match sufficient to start out chemotherapy immediately, and he ended up spending three months in hospital from July to October.
“We thought we were going to lose him, he was so ill,” Sally, who has been married to Dennis for 10 years, defined.
“Even the consultant thought we were going to lose him.
“I was scared because I just thought: ‘How can this be happening when we’ve only just met each other?’ We just thought we were going to have the rest of our lives together.”
However, Dennis, who’s Catholic, mentioned he “fought and prayed every day”, including: “I said to the consultant: ‘If you promise to me you won’t give up on me medically, I promise I’ll fight this all the way.’”
Dennis was decided to get higher and, with the assist of a physiotherapist, he constructed up his power – and at one level, he was strolling 10,000 steps a day alongside the hospital hall.
Towards the finish of October 2022, Dennis mentioned “everything seemed hunky dory” and he commenced the first of 4 rounds of chemotherapy, the place he skilled nausea, exhaustion, and “tremendous leg bone pain”.
By January, he was told the chemotherapy was “not working”, however reasonably than attempting different types of therapy, he mentioned he wished to “enjoy the little things” and the time he has left.
He has deliberate his personal Requiem Mass and funeral to alleviate any stress from his household, but in addition to provide him “strength” and some management over his future – and other than his common check-ups and blood checks every week, he is setting himself small milestones, equivalent to attending a Madness live performance at the O2 in December.
Although he is “struggling to survive”, he mentioned he would do “anything to get another day” – and that’s the reason he is holding onto hope and needs to encourage others by no means to surrender.
“Even though I pray every day, not once have I asked God to take it away from me – all I ask is that He’s with me when I need him, to give me the strength to carry on fighting,” he mentioned.
“Leukaemia is painful and every day I question whether I’ll see another day, but we just try and keep going and I hope that my story gives hope to others.
“I’ve still got lots of memories to make yet, so I’m going to fight this all the way.”
For extra info and assist, go to Leukaemia Care’s web site at leukaemiacare.org.uk