Remarkable fightback of 21 year old who overcame rare form of blood cancer

  • 21 year old Ellis Lee diagnosed with rare form of cancer 
  • Speaks to NQ's Asher Nutting about his fightback to normal health
  • Burnley FC backed him all the way

As a person in any walk of life, there is a set of three words you never want to be on the receiving end of: “You’ve got cancer”.

For 21-year-old Ellis Lee, this nightmare became a reality.

Ellis, from Bradford, is just a normal lad working his way up the football ladder, currently residing as a media officer at Premier League club, Burnley FC.

However, back in December 2018, Ellis was dealt the devastating news that he had a rare type of leukaemia in his blood.

More than a year on from his diagnosis, Ellis took the chance to speak openly about his unbelievable battle to NQ.

Leukaemia, Burnley FC, Bradford
Ellis, right, on an away trip to Manchester United, covering Burnley, pictured with Marcus Rashford after being invited into the dressing room post-match by the club and specifically, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer   Picture: Ellis Lee

“It started in December 2018. I’d had a few doctors appointments but nothing had come up that was anything serious at the time. I then went for a chest x-ray at St Luke’s Hospital in Bradford and that came back all clear,” he said.

“I was sort of happy with how I was. I thought there can’t be anything wrong’.

“Then a couple of weeks later, things got worse again. Mum and dad were noticing that I wasn’t myself and saying that I should get checked out. I ended up going with my old man to the doctors.

“For days on end I was thinking about what was going to happen and what the next step would be. It got to Christmas Eve and we had an appointment at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

“We sat down with five or six nurses in the room and they did a few checks. I had three injections in my neck where the lump was and they said they were 99% sure this type of leukaemia was what it was, but it’d take a week or so to get properly looked at in the lab.

“It was having to tell my friends and family that was the hardest bit. I was 20 years old at the time and I had a form of blood cancer but I was determined to not let it define anything or take over my life.

“I wanted to carry on as normal and that was the main aim right from getting diagnosed.

“At first I was obviously really scared but after a couple of days it was strange,I became motivated to get on and fight it rather than sit back and let it come towards me.

“I wanted to take it to it and see what it had.

Leukaemia, Burnley FC, Bradford
Ellis, right, and footballing friend Will Smith, paying a visit in December 2019 to the ward that saved Ellis’ life. Pictured are various Christmas gifts given to staff and patients on the ward from Ellis  Picture: Ellis Lee

“Everyone around me made it a lot easier to cope with. The club offered me to have time off and still be paid, but I just wanted to carry on life as normal.

“I’d have chemo on a Tuesday, which is quite brutal and it’d take it out of me for hours. It was four different drugs coming into my body and ripping away at parts of me, just to repair other parts.

“Then I’d have the day off on a Wednesday and go back to work on a Thursday, as if nothing had happened.

“The players, the staff and just everyone at the club were unbelievable. Sean Dyche would regularly ask me to come in his office just for a general check up on how I was and to ask about what was going on.

“Then you had the players like Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski and Jack Cork that were asking all the time how I was, how my last round of treatment was and so on. It’s just a really good club. They were really good with me and I’m forever grateful for that.

“It was 12 rounds of chemo all together, every two weeks for six months.

“Obviously you start losing your hair and bits of your eyebrows and you start thinning, there’s loads of little parts like that. I actually didn’t lose all my hair and managed to keep quite a bit, so I was lucky in a way.

“At a charity event, in May 2019, we raised £30,000 for the ward that I was treated on, with an auction of football shirts, vouchers and all that type of thing. It was held at Malmaison Hotel in Leeds and was a really good night.

“It was a really proud moment for me to raise that amount of money for such a special place.

“I made some good friends on the ward and there’s some people that I’ll never forget. I still go back to this day.

“I eventually finished treatment in July 2019 and then it was September when I got the all clear.

“It was just a meeting with the same doctor I’d been having meetings with every week to see how I was. They walked in the office, sat down and said ‘do you want the good news or the bad news?’

“They said the good news was that it had all gone but the bad news was that they wouldn’t be seeing me for much longer.

“I think they did get along with me quite well so in a way they could have a bit of a joke about it.

They were a great set of staff and the NHS are unbelievable with what they do

“It’s been nearly 12 months now since I finished treatment and a year on, I’ve never felt as strong and fit in my life.

“I’m back working full-time and working out in my spare time. I run, walk or cycle at least once a day and so I’m keeping really active.

“Work’s going really well and health-wise, I’m all fit and well now.

“Last year was the craziest year of my life. The highs and lows are indescribable. Although it was one of the scariest and most daunting years of my life, it’s one of the best as well.

“Some of the stuff I did just made it a year to remember for both good reasons as well as the bad. It wasn’t just a year from hell.

“I had a lot of good, good people around me, who were unbelievable from day dot, and I just wanted to make the whole experience as positive as I could.”