Mum taken unwell over Christmas facing a cancer battle
THE husband of a woman who was diagnosed with leukaemia on New Year's Eve has spoken of his family's "terrifying" journey since receiving the devastating news.
Mum-of-two Sam Lander Stow, aged 36, was tested for glandular fever at the end of December after a period of ill health.
But on New Year's Eve, the Ivybridge couple's lives changed forever when Sam was told she in fact had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia – a rare form of cancer that only affects around 2,000 people every year in the UK.
"I've never experienced anything quite as terrifying as watching a loved one get the worst news of their life," said Richard, 36.
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"Our whole world was flipped upside down. Believe me, you have no idea what a bad day is until you are stood in a hospital ward hugging your wife at midnight on New Year's Eve when she has recently been told that she definitely has cancer and the chemotherapy starts in two days.
"There were lots of tears when the clock struck 12 but I just told Sam that whilst 2012 was the year she got cancer, 2013 will be the year she beats it. That's what we're trying to focus on," said Richard.
Sam has been on Birch Ward at Derriford Hospital ever since her diagnosis and is currently undergoing intensive chemotherapy.
Richard said: "Sam had none of the risk factors that could increase a person's chances of getting leukaemia. She is strong, fit and healthy, doesn't drink, and has never smoked. And that's the message I want to get across to people – yes, she still got cancer, but she has a much better chance of recovery because she is so healthy.
"She is now on a cocktail of drugs, but most of them are to help her survive the chemo.
"Leukaemia can kill her, but chemotherapy could kill her even quicker and that's what terrifies me."
Richard is now adjusting to life as a full-time dad to their two young children Kristian, 6, and Evie, 4, as well as working full time as an IT consultant.
He said: "Having to take on Sam's role is utterly exhausting – we're going from meal to meal but I'm now starting to get a bit more organised. Breakfast has gone from a fairly peaceful affair to lots of screaming, shouting, chasing and I've even had to learn how to plait Evie's hair!"
The couple made the decision to tell their children about Sam's diagnosis right away and Richard said he regularly makes time to talk to them about what is happening.
"We talk about mummy every couple of days and they have been in to see her a few times. It's usually completely heart wrenching when they do. The first thing Evie said was 'I miss you mummy'.
"The hardest thing is when the children do something funny or silly and Sam's not here to see it. But I'm always texting her snippets of their funny conversations and lots of pictures," said Richard.
Sam is said to be responding to her treatment as would be expected but is facing at least another four-week stay in hospital.
Richard, a keen sportsman, has been so impressed with the care Sam has received whilst in hospital he has pledged to raise £20,000 for the Plymouth and District Leukaemia Fund (PDLF) who raise money to provide more comprehensive care locally.
He will be competing in an array of intense sporting events over the next two years for which he is hoping to raise as much sponsorship and fundraising money as possible.
"I was going to be doing the events for another charity but with all that has happened it makes sense to do it for PDLF. It's much closer to home now. We are taking the future as it comes. That's really all we can do, just keep on going."