Buddy support scheme helps Yorkshire optometrist Janine battle leukaemia

An optometrist from Pudsey, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2019, will be sharing her story in a BBC film this Sunday (February 25). Single mum Janine Black was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) just two days before her 55th birthday, having suffered with breathlessness, sore gums, a flu-like illness and dry cough.

She had also developed lumps under her armpits. She underwent several rounds of gruelling chemotherapy and was told she was finally in remission in June 2020.

However, in 2021, her leukaemia returned and she faced further chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant.

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During this time, Janine turned to Worcester-based charity Leukaemia Care for help and support. Through their one-to-one buddy support scheme, she was matched with a leukaemia buddy – 69-year-old Judith McHale from Leicestershire – who had been through the same diagnosis and similar treatments in 2014.

Janine Black from Pudsey (left) with her support buddy Judith McHale from Leicestershire.Janine Black from Pudsey (left) with her support buddy Judith McHale from Leicestershire.
Janine Black from Pudsey (left) with her support buddy Judith McHale from Leicestershire.

Judith, a former nurse, was able to offer Janine reassurance, understanding and support at a time when she was full of fear, anxiety and questions. Speaking to someone who’d been through the same experience was invaluable for Janine. And thanks to their mutual support for each other, the two women’s relationship has since blossomed into friendship.

Janine said: “The mental side of leukaemia is tough, so having someone who understands exactly what you’re going through is a great support. The fact that Leukaemia Care provides specialised buddies matched to your type of leukaemia and treatment really is a lifeline.”

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And Judith added: “I wish the buddy scheme had existed when I was diagnosed. Despite having amazing support from friends and family, you cannot underestimate the importance of sharing your experience with another patient who totally understands what you’re going through because they’ve been through exactly the same.”

Now their story will form part of the BBC’s Lifeline Appeal film for Leukaemia Care, due to be screened on BBC1 this Sunday. The film will be presented by former Strictly Come Dancing Judge Dame Arlene Phillips.

Arlene, who lost her own mum to leukaemia when she was just 15-years-old, said: “I’m honoured to be supporting this appeal for Leukaemia Care, having lost my wonderful, loving mum to leukaemia when she was just 43. I know only too well the pain caused by a leukaemia diagnosis and want families like mine to receive the best possible, diagnosis, information, advice, treatment and support.”

Leukaemia Care’s interim CEO, Nicole Scully said: “We are so pleased that the BBC have chosen to illustrate the valuable work we do in supporting leukaemia patients and their families. The stories featured in the film show just how important the charity’s services are in getting people the right support.”

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The film will be repeated on BBC2 on Tuesday, February 27 and is available online via BBC iPlayer.

To watch the BBC Lifeline film and donate to Leukaemia Care, visit www.bbc.co.uk/lifeline For more information visit www.leukaemiacare.org.uk

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