Young NI woman goes to doctor with toothache- and is given tragic leukaemia diagnosis
A Northern Ireland woman has told how her life was thrown into turmoil when she received a shock leukaemia diagnosis.
Lauren Neilly (23) had gone to the dentist with a toothache, but following a root extraction procedure the wound failed to heal.
It was only after a subsequent visit to a doctor for blood tests that the Ballymena woman learned the terrible truth.
Now, one of her friends is crowdfunding to help her with basic living costs as she hasn't been in her job long enough to qualify for sick pay.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from her hospital bed, bank employee Lauren revealed that she is still reeling from her rapid hospitalisation.
"It was a bit of a shock to the system when they told me I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)," she said.
"They told me that I had to be admitted to hospital immediately and it felt surreal for a while. I felt as though my body had failed me."
Lauren is currently at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where she has already undergone one round of chemotherapy treatment and is due to have another three.
"I'd gone to the doctor at 11am on March 22 and then just went about my daily business as I was due to fly to Belfast later that evening," she said.
"When I got back I realised I'd missed a few calls and then I was told to go to the hospital.
"That's when they said, 'You're not going anywhere for a while'."
After suffering a reaction to one of the products during the first round of chemotherapy, Lauren said the whole thing was a pretty miserable experience.
"I was ill and being sick. It wasn't a highlight," she said. "To be honest, the last three weeks have been a roller coaster. Even now, I still feel tired.
"It's the same battle each day. It is a bit of a struggle."
Lauren said she's been told to expect her hospital stay to last up to six months, but at least she has her mum Sam (48) and dad David (49) by her side.
"Mum flew over when she thought I had a sore tooth and she never left," she said.
"My dad came over later with my 17-year-old brother Adam who has since gone back home, but my parents are staying close by in accommodation provided by the CLIC Sargent charity.
"It's so good to have them here. It really means a lot."
With a wedding planned for next June and her Scottish finance Ben (26), a student teacher, to keep her spirits up, Lauren has a lot to look forward to.
"Ben has been great, I can always rely on him," she said. "We met on separate family holidays in the south of France when I was 15 and we fell in love. That's why I'm living in Scotland now."
When she found out her friend and co-worker Liz Myles had set up a crowdfunding page, which has raised almost £5,000 already, Lauren was really touched.
"There are no words; I broke down in tears when my mum told me," she said.
"I was really worried about paying my rent and my bills while I'm off work and in hospital because I'm only entitled to two months' full sick pay."
On the crowdfunding page Liz wrote: "My colleagues and I wanted to do something to help so on June 10 a group of us are climbing Conic Hill in Scotland. Lauren's family are going to climb Slemish. Then on Sunday, July 15 we will climb Ben Lomond, one of Scotland's great Munros."
To help, visit: https://www.go fundme.com/lomond-for-lauren