We knew something was terribly wrong with mum when she suddenly shrank

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We knew something was terribly wrong with mum when she suddenly shrank

A MUM who suddenly shrunk after complaining of a painful back was given a devastating diagnosis.

Alison McDonald's daughter realised she was “towering over” her normally tall mum, and encouraged her to immediately have it looked into.

We knew something was terribly wrong with mum when she suddenly shrank

Alison McDonald was diagnosed with cancer after her daughter noticed she had shrunk Credit: Justgiving.com

It had come after the mum-of-four went to hospital with excruciating pains, but doctors had thought it was due to muscle aches.

But when the family noticed Alison was four inches shorter than normal, they rushed her back to be checked over.

The 56-year-old was eventually diagnosed with myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

She told BBC Scotland: “It was really weird. I was standing beside my daughter and she said 'Mum you've shrunk… there is something not right'.

“So we got a measuring tape against the wall and sure enough I had dropped from 5ft 6in to 5ft 2in. My daughter is 5ft 5in.

“I got a pang of fright and then noticed part of my spine was sticking out of the middle of my back.

“I thought, this isn't muscular like they have been telling me, and I need to get help.”

X-rays at the hospital showed she had a number of breaks in her spine, after she had lost a stone in weight and been walking with a stoop.

She was given a back brace but found it too painful, and after three months a GP insisted she get more tests and the cancer was discovered.

Alison has had chemotherapy and is now having stem cell treatment – which aims to double her remission time.

She said: “I'm very fortunate my daughter pointed out to me that I had shrunk, or I would have carried on thinking this very painful back was just muscular and I wouldn't have started on any treatment.

Myeloma often causes pain in affected bones, usually the back, ribs or hips.

It feels like a dull ache, which is made worse by movement.

The condition can weaken the bones and make them more likely to break, with the spine, arms and legs the most often affected,

Spine fractures can then cause sections of the cord to compress, which can feel like pine and needles, numbness in the legs and feet and bladder control problems.


Anyone experiencing symptoms of spinal cord compression should get immediate medical help and treatment.

It's not clear what causes the condition, but there is a link between it and another illness called monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance.

This is where there is too many protein molecules in the blood – it doesn't cause symptoms and doesn't need treatment.

But each year around one in every 100 people with the condition go on to develop myeloma.

Myeloma is more common in men, adults over 60, black people and those with a family history of MGUS or myeloma.

Victoria, Alison's daughter, set up a fundraising page for Myeloma UK.

She said she would shave her head to support her mum – who was worried about losing her hair to the treatment – at the end of the month.

So far, nearly £5,000 has been raised for the charity.

Stephen Fry and Dr Hilary encourage people to come forward for cancer checks

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