Published: 05:00, 06 December 2021
| Updated: 15:29, 07 December 2021
In a whirlwind of a week Dan Anderson met both the love of his life and was told he had incurable blood cancer.
Aged just 44, the Rochester resident was diagnosed with myeloma, which claims the lives of 3,000 people a year in the UK.
The sales support manager knew something was amiss when "out of nowhere" he started experiencing persistent aches and pains in his chest in June 2019.
Doctors were initially stumped but after three months of tests to try and pinpoint his symptoms, he was diagnosed with the illness, which had caused one of his ribs to snap.
He said: "I hurt and I just knew something was not right. The pain just happened out of nowhere.
"The thing with myeloma is that it is an invisible illness: there is no tumour or lump you can feel in your body.
"After going through all these tests finding out what it was, was not as much of a shock because I already knew something was wrong. I am a headstrong, positive person anyway."
Myeloma occurs in the bone marrow and currently affects more than 24,000 Britons.
Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, it is especially difficult to detect as symptoms, including back pain, easily broken bones, fatigue and recurring infection, are often linked to general ageing or minor conditions.
Dan started treatment straightaway but unfortunately developed pneumonia while undergoing chemotherapy. His stem cell transplant also had to be postponed due to Covid.
It was eventually rescheduled and he received the life-saving procedure at King’s College Hospital in June last year.
He added: "The four weeks I spent in hospital were difficult.
"I did not look very well and I felt down about it. I lost a stone in three weeks, my beard disappeared. I did not realise how much my body was going to physically have to go through to get better again." He is now in remission.
After being diagnosed on October 29, 2019 and entering the early stages of chemotherapy he decided to go on his first date five days later with his now-partner Stacey.
"She has been an absolute rock during this crazy time in my life that I never thought I would have to go through," said Dan, now 46, "A lot of people would have turned their back on it. It is crazy to think I was diagnosed on a Tuesday and we had our first date that Sunday.
"I was starting chemotherapy, I had all these steroid drugs but she showed up in abundance, embraced it and supported me.
"We had been speaking for about four weeks before we met and I had been transparent about it all. I could tell what a kind heart she had. She was so understanding."
The couple have now celebrated their second anniversary.
"It is crazy to think I was diagnosed on a Tuesday and we had our first date that Sunday..."
While it is incurable, myeloma is treatable in the majority of cases. Treatment is aimed at controlling the disease, relieving the complications and symptoms it causes, and extending and improving patients’ quality of life.
More than half of patients face a wait of over five months to receive the right diagnosis and around a third are diagnosed through an emergency route.
By that point, many of them are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms.
Dan added he and south Londoner Stacey, 36, did not let his treatment be the focus of their relationship and recalled "laughing, smiling and telling jokes" while in the hospital waiting room.
He added: "Some people were looking at us like, ‘Is it the right way to deal with it?’ But for us it was. We did not want it to take over so we just got on with it.
"Stacey showed up for me when I needed her and it was probably very hard on her.
"People forget about partners and family. It is all very well that we go through this kind of illness but your partner and family all go through it as well – whether they are vocal about it or try not to show their emotions."
To thank Stacey for her support and unconditional love, Dan took part in Myeloma UK’s Myeloma Stars campaign and dedicated a star to his "best friend".
His dedication read: "No matter where you are in life there will always be a star from me shining love down on you. The universe brought us together and the stars would have been looking down on us. Thank you for loving me. I will always love you and our connection. You are my star."
Dan is now encouraging others to join him in supporting Myeloma UK this Christmas by dedicating a star to a loved one and making a donation.
To dedicate a star to a loved one and support Myeloma UK head to its website here.
Anyone can dedicate a star for as little as £1 and help fund vital research into treatment and a possible cure.