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New drug saves Newmarket student Hayley: Teenage leukaemia patient in remission after whirlwind of treatment

A well-again Hayley, centre, is pictured with her family, from left, Amina, farther Mourad, Aisha, Salim, mother Lisa, and Malika.
A well-again Hayley, centre, is pictured with her family, from left, Amina, farther Mourad, Aisha, Salim, mother Lisa, and Malika.

A 19-year-old Newmarket student who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia is clear of the disease after treatment with a drug which was only approved for her condition a few months earlier.

Hayley Craig, of Charles Close, was so healthy she had been removed from her doctor’s list of patients because it was so long since she had attended the practice.

But in August last year, after suffering from back pain, nausea and tonsillitis, her mother Lisa Yahouni, re-registered her and made an appointment at which she was told to take paracetamol.

After her symptoms persisted during a holiday in Devon, Hayley again visited the doctor and was prescribed antibiotics for her tonsillitis, with the recommendation that if it did not improve in a couple of days, she should go to hospital.

“Over the Bank Holiday weekend, she started having nose bleeds andat midnight I made the decision to take her to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, which I did not know specialised in cancer,” said Lisa.

Following tests and an overnight stay Hayley was moved to Ward C9 in the oncology department, and was told she had ‘probably got leukaemia’.

“Within 10 hours she was on chemo tablets to hold it up until they knew which mutation of the disease she had got,” said Lisa. “It proved to be Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) which normally only affects older people and she was immediately put on a drug called Midostaurin, which had only been approved for AML patients earlier in the year and came in the form of huge tablets.”

The cancer went straight into remission and Hayley was put on a second course of the drug while a stem cell donor for a transplant was sought –a Swedish donor being found to be a perfect match.

After a dash to the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, where Hayley became the first person with AML to have an ovary cryogenically preserved for future fertility, she began the intensive pre-transplant chemo on December 4 followed by the transplant itself on December 14.

“She said it was a bit of an anticlimax,” said Lisa. “After all the fuss it was only a drip bag.”

Hayley returned home on New Year’s Eve and was able to celebrate a ‘second Christmas’ with her brother and sisters the following day.

She will need to have a top-up of stem cells to bring the count up to 100 percent and is having weekly blood tests at Addenbrooke’s but Hayley, a former pupil at Soham Village College, who will take up the place to study history at Anglia Ruskin University which she had to defer last year, has started fund-raising for Cancer Research in the meantime.

A charity quiz will be held on June 19 at the Holiday Inn, in Cambridge, where her mother works in the bar and restaurant and her step-father Mourad is a chef.

Entries are welcome for teams of up to 10 people at £7 per head to include a buffet and Hayley will also be taking part in the Walk For Life on July 6 for which she has already raised £1,500 in sponsorship. Anyone who would like to contribute can do so online.

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