Read their stories!

Why I Relay, Schalan's Story

01 Apr 2021

My name is Schalan Fleming and I’m one of the team captains for Team Jango.

On 26th April 2018 there was a knock on our front door. When I opened that door my heart sank to see my GP Dr Darragh O Doherty standing there. I knew instantly he had bad news for us. My husband hadn’t been well for about a week and a half with different symptoms and on the previous day bloods were sent away. He told us out straight that he thought Colin had Leukaemia and we needed to get him straight to Waterford Hospital that night with the hope of him being transferred to St.James’s the next day. It was actually like being in a dream. Colin was only 36 years old, married with three young kids. He was the most active, fit, energetic person. We got Colin to Waterford hospital where they took more blood and scheduled a bone marrow test for next morning. Doctors said they had an idea which type Colin had but this would confirm. So the next day, on 27th April, after a bone marrow test Colin was transferred to St.James’s Hospital in Dublin.

There we met his Consultant and were told he had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), had to start treatment that very day and that he’d be in hospital for 5 weeks straight. I think at that moment it hit me just how serious this was! Colin responded really well to treatment and after his first cycle of chemotherapy his bone marrow was in remission. He went on and had a second round of a different type of chemo and this is when we found out that he needed a transplant. Colin had two chromosome defects and unless he got a transplant he would not survive. At that point we had to go on the Bone Marrow Registry as Colin’s siblings were not a match. During the wait Colin had a third round of chemo. This was definitely the toughest for him as his eyes became very sore. We then got word that they had found a donor and the transplant was to take place on 11th September. The best news!! Things started to look up, everything was going great. Colin got home during the August bank holiday for a few days but when he woke up one side of his face had dropped. He was sent straight back to hospital and had to see so many other types of doctors we had never seen previously and he had to endure lumbar puncture after lumbar puncture, scan after scan to see what was causing this. A week later the other side of his face dropped and then on the 23rd August the nerve in his eye so that now he had no control with that eye. This is then when we were told the leukaemia was in Colin’s central nervous system and damaging his nerves one by one.

We were given three options that day:

  1. Go home and do nothing and he could have a week.
  2. Give him palliative chemo and he should get a few weeks at home with us.
  3. Go ahead with transplant on 11th September with only a 5% chance of survival and not getting to see the kids again.

We went for option 2. Colin adored our kids and at the time Charlie was 5, Annie was 3 and Jack was 1. He had spent so long away from them he just wanted to spend the rest of his time with them so after finishing the palliative chemo that week we took Colin home with the help of Wexford Hospice Homecare.

During this time we had to sit down with our kids individually and tell them the doctors can’t make daddy better. Definitely the worst experience ever. This was short lived as Colin became too unwell at home and had to get an ambulance back to James’s. Then we were told he had days!

But then a miracle happened! Over the next 3/4 weeks Colin started to get better, he was walking around, back eating and looking after himself again. This is when the doctors decided to do another bone marrow test and it came back that Colin was in remission so they decided to treat him again and gave him another round of chemo. The transplant was back on the agenda and rescheduled for 19th December.

Colin was brought back into hospital on the 8th December to get ready for transplant, this time he had to have whole body radiation, chemotherapy and anti-rejection drugs. Colin’s transplant went according to plan and everything seemed to be going well.

January was a difficult month for him as he got a very sore mouth and was unable to eat. Over the next two months Colin had literally every set back he could get with virus’s and infections, but he always remained positive. I think it was two months before he got to see the kids.

On 3rd April, just a normal day in the hospital, doctors came in and told us that they could see blasts back in Colin’s blood so they knew the leukaemia was back. We left the hospital the next day to go home and tell both our families and friends that the transplant hadn’t worked and now this really was it!

We had fantastic support from Hospice Homecare, our GP Dr. Darragh O’Doherty and an Irish Cancer Society Night Nurse. On 3rd May Colin died peacefully in his parent’s home.

In January 2019 we had the pleasure of meeting Gay and all her team at the Outstanding Achievement Awards in the Talbot Hotel where my husband was also a winner for the month of October. This was actually the first time I had ever heard about Relay for Life Wexford.

At the time we had hoped that Jango would participate as a survivor, but unfortunately that was not to be! However, we put together Team Jango and did it in his honour.

I got so much personally from doing Relay. It was such an emotional day, full of both tears and laughter. I can never put into words how being there that day made me feel, but I do know my dear husband, Colin Jango Fleming, walked those laps by my side that day.