18 Apr 2023

“I struggled to get out of bed with the fatigue”: Peppie’s story

Peppie Scobbie would never have believed her infected finger would lead to a cancer diagnosis.

Peppie, 53, from Larkhall in South Lanarkshire, had taken three courses of antibiotics but the stubborn infection refused to heal. She had just started her own cleaning business after working in the care sector for 15 years. Peppie had been feeling tired for several weeks, which had spoilt a recent holiday as she had felt irritable and hadn’t enjoyed sitting in the sun.

It came down to an infected finger

“One day soon after I got home I struggled to get out of bed with the fatigue,” said Peppie. “I managed to get out to work and but then a client’s dog jumped up on my arm – it was like an electric shock on my arm and it instantly bruised. I banged my shoulder the next day – same feeling and badly bruised. Then came the infected finger. After three courses of antibiotics my daughter nagged me to go back and the GP took bloods.”

The doctor called Peppie the next day and said her blood tests showed too many white cells and low haemoglobin. And then, devastatingly, rang back half an hour later saying the final tests had come back and Peppie had acute myeloid leukaemia.

“I was speechless,” said Peppie. “I handed the phone to my daughter Chloe and told her that I had to make my way to Monklands hospital. My daughter called my partner Steve, my mum and other daughter Tammy. My mum came right away and just said my name and I burst into tears. It was all so surreal. We all had questions to ask that day – but my only question was will I survive. The consultant told me that yes patients do survive. So from that moment on I decided I would be positive and fight back with all I had.”

What happened next 

The very next day, 18th of August 2017, Peppie started chemotherapy. Unfortunately the first round of chemo made her so unwell by that by 4th September she was in ICU with pneumonia and sepsis. Peppie was on life support for two weeks. Her family faithfully visited, and together with the nurses wrote a daily diary of everything that had been happening. Finally, after listening to recordings of her five granddaughters, Peppie opened her eyes and regained consciousness.

“While I was in ICU my three siblings Margaret, Tom and David went and got tested for a tissue match to see if they were suitable to give me their stem cells as this was the next stage of my treatment,” said Peppie. “Fortunately I sailed through my second course of chemotherapy. My third one was up and down for a few weeks but I got there. I was in remission by Christmas, and allowed to go home.”

Over Christmas Peppie got the good news her oldest brother Tom was the perfect match. She received Tom’s stem cells on the 26th January 2018, and another transplant in June, followed by months in hospital as she recovered from ‘Graft Vs Host’ disease – where white blood cells attack the patient’s own body.

“I’m still on immune suppressants and currently on a trial drug called Ruxolitinib,” said Peppie. “My gut and mouth have been permanently affected, and I also have avascular necrosis in all my joints due to the mass doses of steroids. I’ve had two new knee replacements. And I’ve just been diagnosed with osteoporosis. I’m still attending haematology every to four weeks. But I go to aqua-fit twice a week, walk my two dogs, and do all the cooking and cleaning myself. I’m in pain every day but I work through it. Mentally it’s hard but I find the strength to plough on. I have days where I cry and ask ‘why me’ but always have a positive mind-set that snaps me out it.”

Steve and Peppie had been together 24 years when she developed leukaemia. And on 14th February 2020, uncertain of what the future would hold, they decided to get married.

“As my dad is no longer with us I had no doubt in my mind that my brother Tom was the only other person that could give me away at my wedding – it just seemed right,” said Peppie. “We had the best day and I’m so grateful to everyone who shared it with us. I would also like to thank all the hospital staff for the fabulous care I received and still receive. You are all amazing wonderful caring compassionate people and without you I wouldn’t be alive today. Our NHS is just the best.”

Discover more personal stories from people affected by leukaemia.

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