In 1984, Sara Davies was asked to donate her stem cells to a complete stranger – Catherine Naylor. It was a historic moment, because it was the first time anyone had attempted to treat Catherine’s illness (chronic myeloid leukaemia) with a stem cell transplant.
More than 30 years on, Sara’s daughter Kate has been doing something incredible; raising lifesaving funds for Anthony Nolan by taking on a half-marathon (in total, an incredible £1,108!). Here, she kindly shares the amazing inter-generational story:
My mum went on the Anthony Nolan register in 1982, after her father sadly died of aplastic anaemia. A bone marrow transplant would have been the only thing that could have saved him – he was too ill, and there wasn’t enough time for him.
So Mum put her name on the register in the hope that she could be of use. Then, two years later, she was contacted as a possible match for a patient in Cardiff.
She continued to have further tests and then was called to the Anthony Nolan head office, where she was advised she was a good match for a lady suffering from chronic myeloid leukaemia – Catherine. (Editor’s note: at this time, there weren’t any anonymity rules in place between donor and recipient, as the donor was brought to the recipient’s hospital to donate!)
A date was set for the transplant.
Mum’s bone marrow donation
Mum went to the Heath hospital in Cardiff ahead of the transplant date for more tests and pre-op assessment, including counselling about the seriousness of Catherine’s condition and how she had only been given months to live.
My mum’s hospital bed was on the same ward as Catherine, so they were able to spend the days together leading up to the transplant, which took place on the 16th January 1984.
How do I feel about her? ‘Proud’ doesn’t even come close. To do that for somebody, anybody, but especially for someone you don’t know, is an incredible selfless act.
She was able to meet Catherine’s dear husband Graham and her three daughters. They have kept in touch since that date.
And when I was born, I was been named after her!
Me and Catherine
I didn’t meet Catherine until she was invited to my mum’s 60th birthday in London. I found the whole thing quite emotional.
To know that without what my mum did, Catherine wouldn’t be here. She wouldn’t have seen her kids grow up, or their own children. And Graham, her husband, would be without the wife he so obviously adores.
My parents were both guests at her daughter’s wedding, and have had many happy reunions with both our families since. And later this month, they are going to join the family in a Cardiff hotel to celebrate Catherine’s 70th birthday!
Last year it was the 30th anniversary of my mum’s donation, and Catherine and I thought that I needed to do something to recognise that!
I have previously run the London Marathon, and loved the idea of a half, so I thought I’d give the Oxford Half a go.
My lifesaving half-marathon
Tommy is my boyfriend’s brother and a true best mate of mine, and I was chuffed when he said he’d run with me, as it’s always tough to train on your own!
We would run a lot after work along the bank of the River Thames and in the amazing Richmond Park. We would have completely random and philosophical conversations to keep our minds off the fact that we still had 9 miles to run. My favourite question was always, ‘If you won the lottery, what would be the first 5 things you’d buy?’
In terms of competitiveness, there wasn’t any really; it was a given fact that Tommy was the fittest and he held back on his pace to run at mine – which on the day especially was greatly appreciated.
We were also massively motivated by food, so we would run and talk about what we were planning on eating afterwards. That really helped!
The day of the half marathon itself, on 9 October, was fun; a humbling experience. The atmosphere during the run was incredible, and seeing people I don’t know come along to cheer me on was emotional and uplifting.
Seeing my friends and family on the sidelines was great, as well. It was definitely a highlight for 2016!
Now I plan to try a new sport or challenge to continue to raise money and awareness of this fantastic cause.