How it all began
Back in 2009, I’d found myself feeling a bit lost. I’d been working at the same place for six years straight out of university, and although I liked my job, something just didn’t feel right.
It was a normal day at work when I came across a poster saying something like ‘do you want a challenge?’ I immediately thought “YES!” The poster was advertising a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro for Anthony Nolan – I felt an instant rush of excitement.
Before I started to plan fundraising events, I thought I should research the charity I’d be trekking for. I’d heard of Anthony Nolan before, and it wasn’t long before I realised I was actually eligible to join their stem cell register.
I completed the form and soon received a pack of tubes in the post to take to my doctor for blood samples (nowadays you just need to do a cheeky swab!), so that was me on the register.
I completed the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro having raised almost £5,000 for Anthony Nolan. It was a truly magical experience being so high up above the clouds.
Getting the text
After my adventure, I let Anthony Nolan know that I had changed address but didn’t hear much else. Until seven years later, a week after my 36th birthday.
I returned to my desk after a meeting and checked my phone – I’d received a text message from ‘ANolan’ saying that the charity were urgently trying to contact me. I was literally speechless. I called the number immediately to be told that I’d been identified as a potential match for someone. I was so excited!
After I sent back my additional blood samples, there were a couple of months of waiting, before the patient’s doctor confirmed that they wanted me to donate.
I was amazed by how quickly everything was organised. I was contacted by a nurse to arrange the appointments for my G-CSF injections, and the transport and accommodation for the donation was all booked for me.
‘Do good stuff for charity’
G-CSF is a naturally-occurring hormone which increases the number of stem cells your body produces. I’m not going to lie, the injections made me feel quite rubbish, but I just kept thinking about the patient and how ill he must be to spur me on.
Finally, after months of waiting the day had arrived. It was a chilly morning in London and as I made my way to the hospital I could see the BT Tower in the distance. The rotating sign on the top read ‘Do good stuff for charity’. I welled up reading it, I felt so proud of what I was about to do.
The big donation day
I got to the hospital and got settled – the staff did what they had to do. Throughout the whole process I was kept so well informed, I knew about everything that was happening and what side effects I may feel during the process.
Later that day, an Anthony Nolan volunteer came to visit me, we chatted for a little while, and they gave me a goody-bag which I absolutely loved. My boyfriend, Kevin, arrived towards the end of the day – it was so good to see a familiar face and lifted my mood.
I was told I needed to come back the next day to donate again – my recipient is an adult man and I was told he weighed about 15kg more than me, so I’d already been warned that I might need to come back for a second day.
I didn’t sleep too well that night, my bones were aching and I felt a bit bruised. For some reason I was feeling quite nervous ahead of the second day, I think it was just the tiredness getting to me.
The big donation day, take two!
On day two, my boyfriend and I chatted while the hospital staff got everything ready for the donation and hooked me back up to the machine. I tried chatting to him but found it a bit hard to concentrate, so he got his laptop out to work and I just sat there people watching.
I was still so proud of myself for donating and I wanted to save the patient’s life, but I was also keen to go home!
I got a final health check before I was allowed to leave hospital – I was on my way home at last! My work were so good throughout the whole process, they let me have an extra few days off to recover from the procedure, and about a week later I felt back to normal – with just a few stubborn bruises from where the needles went in to remind me of the experience.
Writing to my recipient
I wrote a card to my recipient wishing him luck with his treatment. A few months later I received a card from him, I burst into tears and my hand shook as I read the card. I had obviously hoped that he’d write back, but I hadn’t wanted to get my hopes up; I felt amazing.
Wanting to do more
Following the donation I had an overwhelming urge to do more. While at my parents’ house one weekend I happened to mention that I wanted to do some fundraising for Anthony Nolan. My dad told me he’d signed up for Ride London-Surrey100 to raise money for a local hospice – it sounded perfect.And so it began, 5 months of training and come rain or shine I was out there! When the training got harder or the weather took a turn for the worse I just thought of my recipient and that was enough to get me through it all.I completed the 100 mile ride in July, raising £2,300 for Anthony Nolan and proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. I carried the first card my recipient sent me in my jersey pocket around the 100 mile course, I regularly reached back to feel that the card was still there – it gave me an instant boost. I had a few emotional moments on the day, thinking back to everything that had happened in the last 12 months…WOW, what a year!