Updated 06 April 2017

Random GP visit saves leukaemia patient

It was by pure chance that Roxine van der Merwe found out she had Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia (CML). Today she is living a completely normal life. Read her story here.


It was by pure chance that Roxine van der Merwe found out she had Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia (CML).  Just 22 years old, Roxine had been hi-jacked and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She visited her GP in order to get a referral to a psychologist. 

“It was that random visit to the GP that changed my life,” she says.

Roxine explained to her doctor that she had experienced heavy menstrual periods for some time, but had never discussed it with a medical professional. She was also experiencing night sweats, but thought it was just the warm weather in Durban.

“I guess the signs were all there, but I just didn’t recognise them,” she says. 

Her GP then undertook a thorough investigation and felt that her spleen was severely enlarged.  A sonar scan confirmed it was indeed much larger than normal.

“I also had to go for blood tests which picked up that my white blood cell count was 180 - way higher than the normal range of 5-10,” says Roxine. “When the news came back that I had CML, all I heard was ‘leukaemia' and all I could think about was losing my hair and dying.  It was a very scary time.”


She had recently moved to Durban from Johannesburg and had not yet established a support structure.  On the same day she was diagnosed, her GP referred her to a haematologist who took a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the blood test results. She was hospitalised for three days and given oral chemotherapy to bring down her white blood cell count. 

Roxine was then given another form of chemotherapy and is now in complete remission, meaning her white blood cell count is completely normal.

“It’s exactly five years ago that I was diagnosed and I now live a completely normal life,” she says.

A vivacious 28 year old, she lives in Cape Town, is the branch manager of a software firm and enjoys extreme sports such as bungee jumping and paragliding.

“It’s scary when you find out you have a life-threatening illness, but it makes you appreciate life so much more when you realise you’re a cancer survivor,” she says. 

Written by Bespoke Communications

Read more:

Real hope in fight against cancer
Leukaemia: your questions answered


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