When Glenn Salmon was suddenly diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, doctors warned him the aggressive treatment was likely to make him infertile. However, Glenn and partner Lindsey are celebrating the birth of their miracle daughter Lucy-Mae. Glenn tells AASMA DAY his story and wants other people to know there is hope after cancer.
When you’ve had a near death encounter and come through the other side, suddenly the thought of asking out a complete stranger doesn’t seem as daunting any more.
Glenn Salmon thought exactly this when he took his son to Blackpool Zoo for the day and spotted a nice looking young woman working in the cafe.
After undergoing gruelling treatment for leukaemia and having to go through the ordeal of learning to walk again, Glenn realised life was too short and, holding the philosophy: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”, he decided to be reckless by asking the attractive woman for her number.
Grinning, Glenn recalls: “I was still in the recovery stage and having treatment for leukaemia, but I had come through the other side and this was my new start to life.
“When I spotted Lindsey in the zoo cafe, I thought: ‘Why not?’ and cheekily asked her to write her phone number on the back of the receipt.
“Luckily for me, she did!
“I think my cheekiness appealed to Lindsey and she must have taken a liking to me. I was texting her as I was walking around the zoo with my son and we arranged to go on a date and things just went on from there.”
Glenn and Lindsey’s blossoming relationship was a massive boon to him after spending the last few years battling against leukaemia.
Lindsey, now 28, who was studying nursing at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston at the time, is now a staff nurse at Lancashire Cardiac Centre at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Glenn says he told Lindsey all about what he had been through with leukaemia and found her support invaluable.
Glenn, now 44, says his turmoil began around Christmas 2010 and admits he had been feeling tired and under the weather for a few months before but dismissed it as a touch of flu.
Glenn, who lives in Bispham, near Blackpool, remembers: “Friends and family had commented that I looked a bit off colour and peaky, but I just carried on with life and thought I must be coming down with flu. There was nothing to make me feel unduly worried.”
Glenn, whose son Luke is now 10, went to visit him for Christmas in Crewe where he lives with his mum and Luke’s mum Rachel noticed how poorly Glenn looked.
Glenn says: ““I get on well with Luke’s mum, Rachel, and she commented that I was looking grey and lethargic and didn’t look well as soon as she saw me. By Boxing Day, I was finding it difficult to move and could hardly walk.
“Rachel took me to A&E in Crewe as she knew there was something seriously wrong.”
Doctors carried out tests and told Glenn he needed a blood transfusion immediately and he was given six bags of blood.
Glenn felt a lot better after the transfusion but had to stay in hospital for two weeks while they carried out tests to find out what was wrong.
Glenn explains: “My haemoglobin level was 4.5 when the normal level for men is between 12 and 14.
“A level of eight is considered serious so by rights I shouldn’t have been alive.”
Glenn underwent a bone marrow biopsy and the results showed it was cancer.
He says: “I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which usually affects children. For me to get it at my age – I was 39 when I was diagnosed – was very rare.”
Glenn, who went to Baines Primary School in Blackpool followed by St George’s High School, was working as an IT specialist for Jaguar Landrover at the time. He was admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital in January 2011, where he was put under the care of consultant haematologist Dr Paul Cahalin.
Dr Cahalin says: “We sat down with Glenn and his family and we told him that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was a serious blood cancer but with modern treatments, it was very treatable. We explained that it would be a long road and the treatment would last for a number of years. At that point in time, we introduced the idea of clinical trials to Glenn. A national trial for adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia called UKALL14 had just opened and Glenn was the first patient at Blackpool to go into this trial.
“We have been looking at a new drug called Nelarabine which Glenn received and whether it is beneficial for patients with Glenn’s particular type of leukaemia.
“We still don’t know if it is beneficial as trials take many years to follow up. We are continuing to recruit patients from the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria.”
Glenn, who was single at the time, says focusing on his little boy Luke gave his the inspiration to battle through the treatment.
His parents Linda and Paul returned to the UK from their home in Spain to look after him.
Glenn went through intensive drug treatments and chemotherapy to target the cancer. He became ill with septicaemia and pneumonia and was in and out of hospital and admits going through some very dark days.
Glenn recalls: “The treatment was very gruelling and went on for three years.
“My son Luke was my inspiration to get through it all. His mum Rachel was great and kept bringing him to the hospital to see me.
“Every time I saw him, it really brightened up my day and kept me going. But when he left, it was heartbreaking.
“The trial I went on is supposed to be really good for leukaemia but the side effects can be drastic. However, I decided to go for it. When I finished my treatment, I had to learn to do everything again. Septicaemia had killed all my nerves so I had to learn to walk again.
“The fatigue was terrible while I was recovering and I set myself little targets.
“I managed to start walking again in 2012. I persevered and saw Luke as much as I could.”
When Glenn reached the stage where he felt able to take Luke out on his own again, he asked him where he wanted to go for a day out and Luke chose Blackpool Zoo. It was there that he met Lindsey Drinnan and cheekily asked her out and the couple have been together ever since.
Before starting his leukaemia treatment, specialists advised Glenn to have some sperm frozen as they warned the treatment could affect his fertility.
However, to Glenn’s dismay, he was told the samples that were frozen were not great as the leukaemia had killed off a lot of his sperm.
Glenn says: “When I started my treatment, I was single and focused on getting through the treatment, so I did not worry about it too much. But after I met Lindsey, I knew she would want children at some point and did not know if it would happen.”
To the couple’s delight, Lindsey discovered she was pregnant last year without any need to use the frozen sperm and they now have five-month-old daughter Lucy-Mae.
Glenn says: “I was over the moon and Lindsey was thrilled to bits. When we went for our first scan, we both cried tears of joy.”
Lucy-Mae was born on December 17 2015 and the couple are thrilled with their baby daughter born against the odds. Lindsey says: “We were overjoyed when we found out I was pregnant and so happy about it. We have a beautiful little girl now. She is our miracle.”
Glenn says: “My son Luke helped me get through my treatment – I love him to bits.
“When Lucy-Mae was born, I had tears in my eyes. I was in the room with Lindsey and I cut the cord. Luke is besotted with Lucy-Mae. He absolutely adores her.”
Glenn is very grateful to the hospital staff who have helped him get through his ordeal.
He says: “I owe my life to the staff. I can’t thank the nurses enough. The support has been magnificent. I see my consultant as a friend now.
“Dr Cahalin was very kind. He explained everything in layman’s terms and he was always there for me to ask questions.
“The research nurses were amazing. I could ring them at any time and they were so supportive. They could not do enough for me. Everyone in haematology was fantastic.”
Gemma Spencer, research nurse, says: “It’s great that Glenn has a beautiful and perfect baby girl.
“As research nurses, we always get involved after the initial diagnosis.
“Along with the consultant, we will introduce the clinical trial and discuss in detail any risks or benefits of taking part. It is always the patient’s voluntary choice to participate.
“Glenn is a young man and this type of leukaemia is rare so it was great for us to be able to offer him an appropriate clinical trial.
“Glenn and other people like him are helping us come up with more targeted treatments for cancer.
“Exciting breakthroughs are happening all the time.”
Dr Cahalin adds: “We are thrilled with the new addition to Glenn’s family. Glenn has done amazingly well. We are delighted with his progress – he remains in remission. I see him every three months now.
“I wish him and his family all the best for the future.”
Glenn, who is now working for Bispham Van Hire, is now so well, he is in training for a Manchester to Blackpool charity cycle challenge and is aiming to raise at least £500 for charity. Hes ays: “I want to let people know there is hope after cancer. You can still have a baby and a great life after cancer treatment – I am living proof. Lucy-Mae is the icing on the cake after everything I went through. She is our miracle.”
l If you would like to sponsor Glenn on his cycle challenge, visit: www.virginmoneygiving.com/GlennsBikeRide