A FATHER-OF-THREE is taking a starring role in a national blood cancer campaign highlighting issues faced by patients watching and waiting for treatment.

Paul Walmsley, from Sacriston, near Durham, was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) in 2003 following repeated infections. Despite showing symptoms of the disease, he was told that at just 38, he was too young to have CLL, a slow to progress and incurable form of cancer.

Now 53, the police officer is working with Leukaemia Care to promote the Watch Wait Worry Campaign, which focuses on the 13,000 patients like Mr Walmsley who only receive treatment when intervention is required.

This can be after many years, and the ‘Watch and Wait’ approach allows patients to live a good quality lifestyle without facing the side-effects of intensive chemotherapy treatments.

However, half of patients on Watch and Wait express feeling more concerned and anxious, with one in eight feeling this way constantly. This can be worsened by a lack of information and supportive care on offer.

Mr Walmsley, who was on Watch and Wait for four years before treatment, hopes his own story will encourage patients to stay positive and live life to the full.

He said the support of his consultant, along with his wife, family, friends and colleagues helped him to cope.

“The only times things really hit were when I was coming up to treatment,”he said.

“At first, I wanted something to get rid of the leukaemia, but looking back now Watch and Wait is the best thing, as why interfere when there is potentially no need?

“Don’t worry about the what ifs. I know it isn’t easy, as treatment is not fun and really hard.

“Having that time where the count is behaving itself or only steadily rising is a good thing.

“Just keep remembering that the more time you have before treatment starts, the more chance they have of finding something that will be a better treatment.

“There have been numerous improvements since I was diagnosed 15 years ago, so take heart.”

Since 2007, Mr Walmsley has undergone chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

He is now working full time again for Durham Police.

Leukaemia Care will be launching their report on Watch and Wait at the British Society of Haematology conference next week.

The charity is also working on new clinical guidelines to ensure that patients who are diagnosed with CLL are given appropriate support.

To find out more about the campaign, visit, leukaemiacare.org.uk/get-involved/our-campaigns/watch-wait-worry/