“I would not be alive today”: Victoria Rose credits recent developments in APML research for saving her life

2 Feb 2023

In April 2022, Victoria Rose was diagnosed with a rare sub-type of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) called acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML).

Heading into 2022 was supposed to be an exciting time for Victoria Rose.

“I was 22 years old, ready to start my dream job and take on the world,” she told the Leukaemia Foundation.

But in early April, Victoria suddenly noticed that something wasn’t quite right – and made an alarming discovery.

“One night I noticed that random bruises had showed up all over my body. My mum begged me to take a blood test, because she was adamant that I was low in iron. I couldn’t take her whinging any longer, so I agreed to take the test,” Victoria recalls.

“That night I found out that my blood was riddled with cancer.”

It was Monday 11 April 2022, and Victoria was told the crushing news that 53 Australians are told every day; that she had blood cancer.

Victoria was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML), which is a rare sub-type of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). APML accounts for only 10% of all AML diagnoses, with less than 100 cases diagnosed in Australia each year.

“I don’t think I could ever describe how it feels to be told you have cancer at the age of 22. I also don’t think I could describe how it felt to look into my mother's eyes as she tried to process what she had just heard.”

Despite both still reeling from this shocking news, they had little time to process everything as they had to turn their attention to treatment.

“I had no choice but to begin chemo straight away, or the cancer would have taken my life within days. Within 24 hours, I was admitted into the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre, and my treatment began.”

Victoria at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre in April 2022

“Chemotherapy took everything from me. I couldn’t eat, speak, walk, or even move from one side of the bed to the other without sobbing from pain and nausea,” Victoria says.

“Chemotherapy also took my hair and what felt was like my entire identity.”

Despite the tremendous toll that chemotherapy took on her, Victoria credits her team of hospital staff at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre who were with her every step of the way.

“I can’t even explain the utmost respect and gratitude I have for each and every nurse, doctor, and health care worker I came across during my 36-day stay. My life was left in [their] hands, and [they] protected me at all costs.”

With the support of staff, friends and family, Victoria slowly but surely regained her strength and was able to return home.

After seven months and four cycles of chemotherapy, Victoria entered remission.

“With the support of my beautiful family and friends, I got stronger each and every day and I finally returned home. My body was starting to bounce back! Eight months after my diagnosis, I can proudly say I am cancer-free.”

Victoria on her 22nd birthday in November 2021

In January this year, Victoria returned to hospital one last time for her final cycle of treatment, and is now ready to start a new chapter in her life. A life that was abruptly put on hold just under a year ago.

“I’m doing super well, feeling really good, and just excited for it all to be over,” Victoria says.  
“In terms of my future, I will finally have the chance to commence my career – as I graduated whilst I was still in the midst of chemo. I’m looking forward to landing my dream job as a veterinary nurse and living my life to the fullest. I finally feel free!”

Confident that she wouldn’t be alive today if she received the same diagnosis 10 years ago, Victoria highlights the importance of further research and donations to organisations such as the Leukaemia Foundation.

Due to its rarity, less is known about APML in comparison to more commonly diagnosed blood cancers such as acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) – which accounts for approximately 900 cases in Australia each year.

10 years ago, even less was known about APML. Victoria is confident that if she received her diagnosis then, she wouldn’t be so lucky.

“If I received the same diagnosis 10 years ago, I unfortunately would not be alive today, as this treatment was not available due to a lack of research and understanding of APML. This is why I cannot stress enough how important it is to donate to charities such as the Leukaemia Foundation to support further research and save more lives.”

For 25 years, the Leukaemia Foundation’s World's Greatest Shave has raised critical funds to further these breakthrough research projects, to learn more about various types of blood cancers – and as such give people like Victoria a higher chance of survival.

We’ve made a huge impact so far, but there’s even more to be done – and that’s where you come in.

Sign up to World’s Greatest Shave today to help give the 135,000 families in Australia facing blood cancer hope for a brighter future.

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2 Feb 2023
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