At the age of just 19, Jacob was diagnosed with lymphoma. Years later, he’s taking on his third London Marathon – and doing it in support of Anthony Nolan. This is his story.
My lymphoma diagnosis
I was originally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 19, while I was on my gap year.
I was treated with chemo for six months, and was able to go to uni as planned. The first year was great, but that summer I relapsed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which was a shock.
So I went through a more aggressive course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and was fortunate to have a match from my sister, Harriet, for a stem cell transplant.
At the time I knew nothing about the process, or the odds of finding a donor in your family. I was very focused on the next day of treatment – it would have been horrifying to know the odds were only 1 in 4 for a sibling.
I was quite naïve. I was relieved, but it didn’t sink in how lucky I’d been.
Harriet was very excited when she found out she was a match – she came in and gave me a massive hug, jumped on me, and hurt my Hickman line with her hand. We were all very emotional, obviously!
When it came to the actual transplant, she never complained. She donated through PBSC and she only needed to complete one four-hour donation.
The transplant process on my end was almost underwhelming – 20 minutes, just like a normal infusion! It’s bizarre that this bag of magic that looks unassuming is so incredible. It’s amazing to think of everything that’s gone into developing it, and the luck that that bag represents.
It’s the simplest procedure, but so miraculous.
My recovery – and my London Marathon
Recovery has been challenging at times, overall it’s gone at a great pace.
If you told me 10 years ago that I would be holding down a decent job, and would just have a cough, I would have bitten your hand off to take the offer. It’s been a long road, with lots of ups and downs, but far more ups than downs.
This will be my third London Marathon. I did my first one for the Teenage Cancer Trust in 2012, my second for Anthony Nolan in 2014.
It’s the flattest course in the world, and the atmosphere is incredible. It drives you along on the day and I need the extra help. (I’ve had some pulmonary GvHD which is why I’ll be walking the London Marathon rather than running it!)
When I had my transplant, I was unaware of how lucky I was to have a sibling match; being ill is crap enough, you don’t want to have the stress and fear of trying to find a match on top of that.
So ultimately I’m running the London Marathon because I want everyone in need of a transplant to be comfortable and relaxed that there’s a match for them out there. I want to help the register as much as possible, inspire people to sign up, and make the whole journey easier for anyone who has to walk in those shoes.