WHEN Hannah Toohill began experiencing excruciating back pain during her second pregnancy, she felt certain it “wasn’t normal”.

The 31-year-old from Dingwall in the Highlands had been getting into her car after work in May 2018 when she “felt something crack”.

Within a month she was couch-bound.

“I lay there, slept there – 24 hours a day,” said Ms Toohill.

“I couldn’t move. The only time I left the house was to go to hospital appointments which I had to get wheelchaired out of my own house to get to.

“I was only 20 weeks pregnant and I thought ‘I don’t think I can carry on 20 more weeks of this pregnancy’.”

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In the end, her waters broke early and her son, Fraser, was delivered at 29 weeks.

Had it not been for his premature birth, Ms Toohill believes the myeloma causing her mystery symptoms would have remained undiagnosed and probably killed her.

“My consultant said my boy being born early saved my life,” she said.

“If he had gone to his due day, I would probably not be here.”

The mother-of-two, who works for an insurance broker, was initially given steroid injections to treat suspected costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone.

This alleviated her pain temporarily, but three weeks after the birth she woke up in a pool of blood and was rushed to hospital, where medics discovered a retained placenta.

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Blood tests revealed her blood was not being filtered properly, but scans revealed no problem with her kidneys.

Her renal consultant was the first to suggest a potential myeloma diagnosis after linking the results with back pain, protein in her urine, and anaemia.

By the time she was diagnosed, at the age of just 28, she had crushed discs in her back, had lost five inches in height, and had a broken sternum.

The condition is very rare in people under 40, and nearly half of new cases are diagnosed in over 75s.

“I’d never heard of it before, no one in my family had it,” said Ms Toohill.

“My haemotology consultant told me I was their youngest ever patient.”

HeraldScotland: Hannah with son Fraser and daughter Catherine during her treatment for myelomaHannah with son Fraser and daughter Catherine during her treatment for myeloma

Ms Toohill lost three stone undergoing chemotherapy, and her treatment impacted the whole family.

She said: “I was in a wheelchair due to the pain. My son was on oxygen for a wee while. They delayed him coming home because of the situation I was in.

“My husband took time off work to help look after my daughter and my mum moved 100 miles to help us.”

She received a stem cell transplant in May 2019 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, but unfortunately her body rejected it.

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Ms Toohill is plagued by infections, pain, and fatigue, but says she tries not to dwell on how much life has changed for her in three years.

She said: “It’s just a new normal. I’m quite a calm and positive person – I can’t look back at how life was or how fit I was.

"I might not be able to run in the grass with my kids but I can watch from the sidelines.”

HeraldScotland: Sarah Barron Sarah Barron

In Falkirk, 48-year-old Sarah Barron first realised something was wrong when she bent down to feed her cats in July 2020 and felt something in her back “snap”.

For around six weeks she had been experiencing pain in her lower back and tiredness.

After being rushed to hospital in an ambulance, scans revealed a smashed vertebrae in her spine.

“I suspect if it had been left it would have caused more damage,” said Ms Barron.

Two days later she was diagnosed with myeloma and began radiotherapy and chemotherapy the following week.

In July 2021, Ms Barron, a yoga teacher and pharmaceutical company worker, underwent a stem cell transplant, but had to begin a second round of chemotherapy in March this year when the cancer returned.

She said: “The stem cell transplant basically puts your vaccination history back to nothing – it’s like being a newborn.

"For the whole time we’ve been really careful, and myself and my partner haven’t had Covid at all.

“They started my vaccinations again and I’m two weeks on now from number three so at the moment we have been out a little bit more. You can’t stay inside forever, and it’s been a hard two years. We’re just being very careful.”