When Lucreta was diagnosed with leukaemia three years ago, doctors warned that her chances of survival were slim.

But her passion for running, the help of specialist counselling and a successful clinical trial came together, she says, to save her life.

Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) at the age of 65, Lucreta’s doctor told her he was amazed she was “still standing” after looking at her blood test results.

She said: “I was at death’s door. I was very tired but I just thought I was overdoing it. The day I had a blood test my GP phoned me and told me to pack an overnight bag. I was admitted to hospital and stayed there for a year.”

After months of debilitating treatment and a series of complications, doctors told Lucreta that she had suffered a relapse and there was nothing more they could do for her.

She said: “I bawled the place down. I got a friend to phone round and get a burial plot at my local cemetery for me. I had to make sure I got all my affairs in order. “

But a few weeks later, Lucreta’s doctor heard of a new clinical trial taking place at King’s College Hospital in London and suggested she should be involved.

Counselling helped free up my emotions which meant I could concentrate on recovery and returning to normality.

Lucreta, who was awarded an MBE in 2004 for services to her community, has raised more than £100,000 for charity over the last three decades. She took up running 25 years ago following the break-up of her marriage and is convinced she was offered the chance to go on the clinical trial because she had been fit and active.

After she was transferred to King’s, she was also offered post-bone marrow transplant counselling in group sessions led by haemato-oncology counsellor, Philip Alexander, a position initially funded by Leukaemia UK and the first of its kind in any hospital in the UK.

She said: “Counselling saved my life as well as medicine. Without it, I’d be a mess. It has got to go hand in hand with the medicine. You can read about what is going to happen to you, but reading isn’t enough, it’s just words. If you meet someone and listen to them, and they to you, out it all comes. So, counselling is a must.

“I didn’t go to the group counselling straight away, because I was scared of what I would hear. But once I’d started going, I regretted not going earlier. I learnt that all the time I was worrying about things, I was wasting my time. I had burnt myself out.

“Counselling helped free up my emotions which meant I could concentrate on recovery and returning to normality. “

Later, Lucreta also had one-to-one counselling sessions with Philip Alexander. She said: “Somehow when I started talking about my fears with Philip, they melted away.  He seemed to know how I was feeling and had real empathy.”

Lucreta underwent a stem cell transplant and three blocks of chemotherapy and spent long periods in isolation as a result. She also had to deal with chronic Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD), which particularly affected her gut and one eye.

She said: “I kept getting infections, but finally one of the doctors insisted that I was allowed out of my room. They knew I was a runner. I was allowed to go up and down the ward and walk with my son along the corridor.”

When she was discharged from hospital, she was delighted to be given the green light by her doctor to begin running again. She began by walking around a rug in her home and then progressed outside, initially marking out 25 paving slabs, before making it to the end of the road and, finally, around the block. Two weeks later, she rejoined her Park Run group, which is where she is pictured above.

She said: “I got to the Park Run and they were really nice to me. One girl was on the right and one girl was on the left and they ran with me. They kept encouraging me, saying, ‘you can do it’.  Everyone was so kind.”

Lucreta, who is also a poet, has been in remission since December 2016. She continues to have complications and occasionally still sees counsellor Philip Alexander.

She said: “Initially, I focussed on treatment, recovery and normality. When you achieve that you have to cope with space and learn to fill it, so that you don’t worry too much. At the moment I am adjusting to being on my own, without so many appointments and clinics to attend. Philip has helped me deal with this. “

Lucreta volunteered to take part in a fashion show to mark Cancer Survivor’s Day.

She said: “I had to meet a photographer as part of the fashion show. I put on a dress and looked at myself in the mirror – which is something you don’t do during treatment – and I thought, ‘you’re doing ok’. I felt good. It was nice to look in the mirror and smile at yourself and find yourself again.”

Leukaemia UK has funded the first service of its kind to offer dedicated counsellor and clinical psychologist support for haematological patients at King's College Hospital in London. We anticipate that the first Leukaemia UK Mind and Body Team will find that patients recover faster, need fewer medications and can be released from hospital sooner when they feel supported. Leukaemia UK hopes to fund more services like these across the UK.

To support our Mind and Body Team please follow this link.