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34-year-old woman given one week to live after doctor mistakes leukemia for a gum infection

Mary Scott
Nov 14, 2018
05:22 A.M.

A woman repeatedly went to doctors with symptoms but was told that all she had was a gum infection. What she had instead was an aggressive form of leukemia and one week to live.

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When Jenna Ostrowski, a lawyer living in the UK, returned from vacation, she had a gum infection, as well as swollen glands, lumps under my arms, bruising, and severe headaches. When she visited the doctor, however, he told her the gum infection had just spread to her lymph nodes.

“He made me feel like I was being a hypochondriac,” Ostrowski revealed.

THE TURNAROUND

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But when she visited her dentist in July 2017, he was immediately concerned. He noticed the bruising on her calves and told her to get an appointment with her GP the next day.

Her visit to the doctor was discouraging. He told her: “You're giving me too many symptoms for a 10-minute consultation.”

When Ostrowski insisted she’ll like a blood test, the GP told her she would have to wait two weeks. But the 34-year-old had recently witnessed her mom’s cancer scare and wasn’t willing to take any chances.

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GETTING THE TEST DONE

She used her company’s private health insurance and got tested. The next day, the Priory had her results faxed to her GP. He, in turn, called Ostrowski to let her know her blood results were “very irregular” and that she was being referred to a consultant hematologist at the BMI Priory Hospital.

There, she was told she had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), an aggressive form of blood cancer in which stem cells produce too many immature white blood cells.

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DEVASTATING NEWS

The news was even worse because Ostrowski learned that she’d had the condition for around three to four months.

“They told me that if I hadn't started chemotherapy within a few days, then I could have been dead within as little as a week,” she recalled.

Ostrowski’s next seven months were spent enduring four rounds of grueling chemotherapy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. She had to be placed in isolation too because her immune system was fragile.

A GREATER PURPOSE

It’s been 18 months since then, and Ostrowski is in remission. Although she admits she “will not know whether I've been cured for several years yet,” Ostrowski is determined to raise awareness about the lapses of the healthcare system.

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“I owe the NHS my life, and I know it is under an ever-increasing amount of pressure,” she said. “But I believe that GP training is not adequate.”

Ostrowski added:

“The doctor did not see the signs of leukemia whereas my dentist did. I have seen this in the news a lot recently, tragically with Simon Thomas's wife and also a young lady also from the Midlands with a scarily similar story to mine.

I don't think this is purely coincidence, so we must stop it happening. The problem is that blood cancer symptoms don't manifest themselves as obviously as other cancers.”

In September, Ostrowski also cycled from London to Paris with her boyfriend, Matt, to raise money for Cure Leukemia, a local charity that helped her, and a host of other blood cancer patients, through treatment.

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