Thornbury man's 'long covid' symptoms turned out to be cancer

July 02 2021
Thornbury man's 'long covid' symptoms turned out to be cancer

WHEN Rob Hale started to experience extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and brain fog, he thought he had long covid.

The symptoms are known to persist for weeks after a coronavirus infection in some people.

But when 31-year-old Rob, from Thornbury, finally sought help, they turned out to be symptoms of cancer.

As he waits for a vital bone marrow transplant, he is urging people not to put off seeing a doctor.

Rob ignored how he felt for months, and when he did seek help in April this year, the GP he saw did not immediately recognise the disease, and instead gave him dietary advice.

A few days later the doctor phoned him at work at aerospace firm GKN to talk about his blood test results, and told him he needed to eat more fibre. Ten minutes later he had a call from the Bristol Royal Infirmary and a specialist who broke the news that he actually had acute myeloid leukaemia, a form of blood cancer that affects cells in the bone marrow.

Rob said: “I just sat on the floor crying. Then I had to wait through the bank holiday weekend before I went in to have all the procedures done.

“I can remember after I had covid I took an extra couple of weeks off, but I had to keep sleeping and I wasn’t eating.

"I went back to work for ten-hour days and I wasn’t eating more than a biscuit throughout the day.

"I had a sort of brain fog – I would open the fridge and have no idea what I was looking for. I kept seeing on the news stories about long covid.”

“A couple of months later I had a really nasty rash on my back – everywhere I scratched, welts came up.

"I asked my dad to have a look and he told me to go and see a doctor.”

Rob is now at the BRI having chemotherapy and doctors have told him that he needs a bone marrow transplant. There is only a one in four chance that a sibling will be able to be a donor, but fortunately for Rob, his sister Nikki Foss is a perfect match.

However, for Rob to be able to have a transplant, the cancer in his bone marrow needs to be below 5%, and it has to be eradicated from his spinal fluid.

His first course of chemotherapy reduced the cancer from 90% to 15%, leaving some way to go, and he is now awaiting results from a second round, which he found a gruelling experience.

Rob’s Dad, Nigel, is only allowed to visit him for an hour a day, and Rob talks to his mum, Caron, frequently via videolink, but he can only swap his parents over after a visit home, and he doesn’t know when the next one will be. It depends on the success of his treatment.

He wants to make people aware of the importance of seeing a doctor urgently if they have unusual symptoms.

Rob said: “Get checked straightaway – for anything that’s niggling you.

"Don’t put it off. And if you don’t agree with what the doctor has said, ask for more tests.”

Nigel and Nikki are running the Nottingham Half Marathon to raise funds for Bristol Marrow, a network of students who work with the charity Anthony Nolan to recruit stem cell donors.

They have raised more than £1,000 so far, already beating the £500 target.

You can support the family via their fundraising page