Nichola, along with her husband Ross, is taking on the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon as part of #TeamAN. This is her incredible story.
So why am I, someone who HATES running and is rubbish at running, putting myself through the pain and stress of taking part in the London Marathon? Here’s my story (the shortest version possible).
I was diagnosed with Congenital Neutropenia at the age of 3 – a rare blood disorder where my bone marrow produced an insufficient amount of white blood cells in order to fight day-to-day germs and infections.
Over the following years, I was regularly in and out of Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital with various illnesses and sometimes life-threatening infections. I had daily G-CSF injections and annual bone marrow tests (far from pleasant) to detect cell mutations – without getting too scientific, these could be a sign of developing acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a form of blood cancer.
Meanwhile, I grew up… I graduated from university, met Ross, the love of my life, and was getting stronger and healthier, the older I got. Simply ‘loving life’ as they say – I was even taken off my G-CSF injections!
But in November 2010, the results of my annual bone marrow test came back. I was told that I was likely to develop AML in the near future.
My bone marrow transplant
I was then given the ultimatum of either having a bone marrow transplant, whilst I was young fit and healthy (which would give me a better chance of a successful transplant and survival)…OR to carry on as ‘normal’ and see what happened. Basically, to sit around and wait to see whether I developed leukaemia!
After feeling like my body was a ticking time bomb, with the support of my amazing family, partner and friends, I made the biggest BUT wisest decision of my life and decided to go ahead with the transplant…which would hopefully not only prevent me from developing acute myeloid leukaemia, but would cure the blood condition I had suffered with my whole life.
As there’s a good chance of siblings being a bone marrow match, my lovely selfless brother agreed to be tested. To my relief, but to my brother’s disappointment, the results were negative!
And so Anthony Nolan (a lifesaving charity who try and find bone marrow/stem cell matches for those in need of a lifesaving transplant), did what they do best, and found a 100% match for me, unrelated, all the way from Italy!
On 1 July 2011, my new healthy white blood cells were flown over from Italy and put in to their new home… ME!
My life post-transplant
In 2014, I was finally loving life again but was in desperate need to find a way of saying thank you to the charity who quite frankly saved my life – so, I decided to sign up to the 5k ‘Marrowthon’ run to raise money for Anthony Nolan. Considering walking up a few steps made me breathless, this was a huge challenge for me, but with the support of my amazing partner (now husband) and friends running beside me, I made it!
In 2015 and 2016 – despite still HATING running, Ross and I decided to take on 10K runs to raise more vital funds.
And in winter 2016, we made one of the craziest decisions EVER and signed up to the London Marathon. *gulp*
My London Marathon story
Despite disliking running and feeling extremely nervous about taking part in this year’s Marathon, I can’t help but feel super excited about it! Although training is proving to be rather stressful and very tiring, I can’t wait for the adrenaline to kick in, and I am really looking forward to seeing all the other amazing runners taking part on the day – and not to mention hearing our friends and family cheering us on!
This is going to be one the most challenging but rewarding experiences of my life, and the fact that I will be running side by side with my amazing supportive husband, will make the experience even more special and worth while! I know this will be an extremely humbling and emotional experience for the both of us, so I am going to make sure I wear my water proof mascara for when we cross that finish line!
I still can’t believe I’m actually taking part in the Marathon, and the thought of it petrifies me… but it’s always amazed me what you can achieve when you put your mind to it – and as a friend once said to me, ‘when courage and generosity hold hands, anything is possible!’
I recently found out that I will never have the chance to thank my donor in person, due to the Italian registry’s rules – so, although taking part in the London Marathon is going to be our biggest challenge yet (both mentally and physically), it really is the least I can do in order to show my endless appreciation to Anthony Nolan, and to show how much my donor means to me!