Woman given months to live told her cancer to ‘get out’ and refused to die

A woman who was given months to live said she told her cancer to “get out” and refused to die, before doctors told her she was in remission.

Eliana Keeling, 65, started chemotherapy on Christmas Day in 2020, just a week after a routine blood test revealed she had acute myeloid leukaemia.

Floored with shock, fit and active Eliana refused to accept it was the end when doctors told her five months later that the treatment hadn’t worked and she was dying.

The retired teacher asked to be referred to expert cancer centre, The Christie in Manchester, and was enrolled on a clinical drug trial which put her into remission in just six months.

Upon hearing she was cancer free, Eliana, from Chorlton, Gtr Manchester, broke down in tears and then immediately cracked open a bottle of Rioja to celebrate.

She told the Mirror : “I used to talk to my cancer, it seems weird but I used to tell it ‘I’m not happy’ and that I was going to fight for my life.

“I would tell it ‘I don’t want you here, get out of my blood’.

“I broke down in tears when they told me my it had gone, I couldn’t believe it, it felt like a miracle.

“Then we had a glass of wine to celebrate.”

In June 2021, Eliana was invited to join the early phase of an international trial for a new experimental drug used in combination with azacytidine, which is already used to treat leukaemia patients.

The theory behind the study is that the experimental drug, in tablet form, makes the conventional drug, which is given by injection, work more effectively.

By December last year Eliana’s body was cancer free, allowing her to have bone marrow transplant meaning she has been classed as in remission ever since.

Last month she celebrated her 31st wedding anniversary with husband John, and said there’s plenty more things on her bucket list she’d like to complete.

She said: “When I was told I had cancer it was a real shock that I never expected because I don’t smoke, I’m very active, I used to go to the gym every day.

“But when they told me I had just months to live I said ‘no way’ I wouldn’t accept it because I knew I wasn’t going to die.

“I had to fight it because I knew it would destroy me otherwise and I wouldn’t be able to do all the things on my bucket list that I hadn’t had chance to do.

“I believe my positive mantras and the support of my family and my husband, as well as the amazing doctors at The Christie helped me to overcome the disease.”

Eliana has shared her story to help raise awareness as the NHS celebrates blood cancer awareness month for the whole of September.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer characterised by the rapid growth of abnormal blood cells that build up in the bone marrow and blood and interfere with normal cells

Although AML is one of the most common types of cancers in adults it only accounts for around 1 per cent of all cancers and is uncommon before the age of 45.

The Christie Hospital can offer cancer patients fresh hope in the form of its Clinical Research Facility, which provides a number of clinical trials in conjunction with the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Dr Emma Searle, consultant haematologist at The Christie, whose post is funded by The Christie charity said: “Eliana had a poor prognosis and her only chance was the clinical trial and bone marrow transplant for long term survival.

“We’re really pleased Eliana had such a good response and is now leukaemia free. Given she had a very limited life expectancy when the chemotherapy failed to work, this is an excellent result for her.

“Not all our trial patients have AML that responds as well as Eliana’s did, but we are grateful to every patient and relative that feels able to support research here at The Christie. Trials are so important to make progress in treating cancer.

“The Christie charity has been instrumental in setting up our team that offers experimental treatments to patients with blood cancers where standard treatments aren’t working for them.”