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British mom woke up and couldn’t feel her legs — I had cancer and sepsis

A mother of five from the UK who bravely fought against leukemia and sepsis is sharing her story of enduring extreme symptoms, including temporary paralysis, to emphasize the importance of self-advocacy in medical settings.

Joanne Risdale, 54, began to suspect something was wrong in 2018 when she resisted frequent urges to nap while driving, only to sleep the rest of the day upon returning home. She also experienced loss of appetite and persistent, intense nausea, told Jam Press.

Initially, a doctor prescribed iron pills for her anemia, but the situation worsened when she fell while boarding a train, resulting in a deep leg wound that wouldn’t heal despite months passing. The situation escalated when she woke up one morning unable to feel her legs, causing panic as she had experienced similar episodes months before, resulting in loss of balance.

After another fall, she was taken to the hospital where she received three blood transfusions due to a critically low white blood cell count. Fearing that something serious was amiss, Risdale demanded a blood test.

The next day, she received a life-altering diagnosis: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). AML is a type of cancer that originates in the bone marrow and can spread to the blood.

Struggling with the uncertainty of her future and the impact on her children, Risdale faced another setback three months later when she developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition resulting from the body’s response to an infection. While doctors were able to treat her sepsis in time, it left her temporarily paralyzed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the following months, Risdale underwent extensive treatment, taking around 40 pills daily and receiving IV therapy. Through perseverance and physical therapy, she regained her ability to walk independently three months later. In June 2021, she became cancer-free after undergoing a stem cell transplant. She continues to receive monthly chemotherapy to keep the cancer in check.

Risdale is now working with Leukemia UK, an organization dedicated to uniting the leukemia community, to share her message. She urges others to insist on a blood test when experiencing concerning symptoms and wants fellow sufferers to realize that there is hope even in the darkest times. She encourages open communication with family, friends, and health-based charities.

Reflecting on her journey, Risdale believes that if she can overcome these challenges, anyone can. And if her cancer were to return, she is prepared to fight once again, determined not to let it defeat her. Through her story, Joanne Risdale inspires others to advocate for themselves, seek medical attention, and maintain a resilient spirit in the face of adversity.

Moriah Ballard
Moriah Ballard
Moriah Ballard joined the KPRC 2 digital team in the fall of 2021. Prior to becoming a digital content producer in Southeast Texas and a Houstonian, Moriah was an award-winning radio host in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio and previously worked as a producer/content creator in Cleveland. Her faith, family, and community are her top passions.


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