Newlywed nurse who lost mum to cancer now battling cruel disease herself

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  • 22:22, 9 MAY 2019
  • Updated22:27, 9 MAY 2019

Julia Cullen enjoyed her honeymoon so much when she returned feeling exhausted, she put it down to the post-holiday slump.

The newlywed nurse was also working 60-hours weeks in intensive care at North Tees Hospital so, when she regularly needed to sit down during her shifts, she thought it was just a temporary bug.

"I thought, 'I'll just give it a few more weeks,' but then I just started getting worse and was really struggling with my exercises at Crossfit," she said.

"Then it got to the point when, even just climbing the stairs, my heartbeat would be through the roof.

"It was then I thought, 'That's definitely not normal,'" Julia told Teesside Live.

Still assuming the mystery fatigue was nothing serious, Julia decided to book an appointment with her GP on January 18 to get her bloods taken.

Alarms bells begin to ring when she was called into hospital later that same day.

"I was due to work the night shift so when they rang me I was having a nap," she said.

"When they said I had to go through to the hospital I just felt shell-shocked and dazed.

"My husband works away and he wasn't here but my sister went through with me.

"I think I started to realise when I saw the nurse's face on the ward. I only thought I was staying overnight but she said, 'I think you'll be staying on.'"

Julia, 26, who lives in Hartlepool, knew for certain it was bad news when doctors dropped the bombshell about her low white blood cell count.

She said: “Having worked on a haematology ward before I knew what was wrong with me before the words came out of his mouth.

“My sister held my hand as she knew too. And we both started crying.”

Julia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia – a blood cancer mainly found in children.

The sisters were still grieving after losing their mum Cath to cancer a few years earlier.

The 61-year-old, also a nurse, had fought bowel cancer with liver metastasis before sadly losing her battle in May 2016.

But following their wedding, Julia and her husband Peter had been looking forward to their future and their lives together as a couple.

Prior to treatment starting in February, Julia had an operation to retrieve her eggs so they may still be able to start a family in the future.

She is now having chemotherapy up to four times a week, either through a Hickman Line, in tablet form or injected into her spine, and the treatment has caused her to lose her blonde locks.

In August, if there is still evidence of the cancer, she may then need a stem cell transplant.

The young nurse says she is staying positive and strong with the support of her family.

"It is hard to take that it has happened in our first year of marriage," she said.

“But I've always tried to stay positive about what’s happening to me.

“I’ve learned that you can’t control what’s going to happen to you in life but you can control your attitude towards it.

“It’s so important not to sweat the little things in life and realise how wonderful ordinary life is.

“People get angry because of traffic jams, someone parking wonky or because they’ve gained 4lbs at slimming club.

“They let these things impact their life when really these things are nothing."

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