When she was still only three years old, Beth was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. After a series of relapses, she was told that she’d need a stem cell transplant to give her any chance of life.
In today’s blog, she tells her amazing story – and why she’s supporting Anthony Nolan this World Cancer Day.
This February I will celebrate my four-year stem cell transplant anniversary by trying something different: whether climbing the Monument in London or dancing the night away with friends, as a reminder of how wonderful it is to be alive.
Most importantly, though, by showing my support for World Cancer Day.
My leukaemia diagnosis
When I was just 3 years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a form of blood cancer. I underwent intensive rounds of chemotherapy that were only temporarily successful, with later relapses when I was 8 years old and then at the age of 14. My prospects were bleak when my cancer returned for the third time and a stem cell transplant was my only hope.
Throughout my diagnosis, Anthony Nolan was a constant source of hope. My family and I worked with the charity to put on several recruitment drives in my home town of Leicester, the biggest of which broke their UK record for the most people signed up at one drive.
While we knew the likelihood of my finding a donor from these events was slim, we understood the significance of these events and hoped to help others.
Despite this, quite amazingly, my ‘one-in-a-million’ donor was found for me in Germany. A perfect, 100% match.
My lifesaving stem cell transplant
I had my transplant on 8 February 2012, a date that will forever be ingrained in my memory. For a grand total of 15 minutes, my donor’s stem cells were pushed through my Hickman line into my bloodstream.
In all honesty, it felt like a slight anti-climax to what had been months of build-up! Only my hands shaking throughout hinted at its significance.
My life, my future
Now four years on, I’ve moved away from home to study Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Politics. When I was younger, I wouldn’t allow myself to dwell on what the future could hold for me, for fear of my leukaemia returning. Being able to have the opportunity to go to university was an incomprehensible dream which I’m currently living.
Now that I’m post-transplant and the possibility of being completely cured increases with every passing day, I’m able to look forward to having a future in a way I never perceived as possible before my transplant, and I’m still getting used to such an idea.
One of the reasons I wanted to study at the LSE was due to its founder’s work in studying the causes of poverty and inequality in London. My aim in life is similar; simply to alleviate suffering wherever possible. Something which Anthony Nolan works tirelessly to achieve.
Why World Cancer Day matters
I’m supporting World Cancer Day this February with Anthony Nolan because, although my story has a happy ending, I’m one of the lucky ones. Because there aren’t enough people on the register; too many people who need a transplant still don’t find one and most will die because of it.
It’s ridiculously sad because there is something that can be done about it; that you can do about it. By showing support for World Cancer Day this February, I hope to be a champion of this cause, of how vital Anthony Nolan’s work in raising awareness of this issue is, and in this way, acting as a voice for those who have lost their lives.
Crucial to this is Anthony Nolan’s work of dispelling the myths associated with bone marrow donation. Rather than the dramatized portrayal of it as a painful procedure, it is relatively painless and an incredibly simple act of generosity which could save someone’s life.
My donor, Liane
I had the wonderfully surreal pleasure of meeting my own donor and genetic twin, Liane, last summer. We swapped life stories, as I told her about the circumstances of my illness and I found out about the process of her donation. Also, significantly, how she came to be on the stem cell register.
Liane said that she’d heard about a recruitment drive near where she lived and that she didn’t hesitate to join the register after hearing about it.
I know that with our support, Anthony Nolan will be able to send out their message of how easy it is to save the life of someone who has blood cancer, simultaneously with a message of generosity (as elicited by Liane) and one of hope.
Want to support us this World Cancer Day? Visit our webstore here to buy a Unity Band and help us save more lives.