An Anthony Nolan presentation moved Farida Dedes to sign up to the stem cell register. But it was a shock in 2016 when she found out she desperately needed a stem cell transplant herself.
I was diagnosed with leukaemia soon after I turned 20.I was in my second year of university at the time and was a very busy individual who was always engrossed in some sort of activity, whether that was studying, working or taking part in extracurricular activities.
I used to work part time on weekends and had taken up jiu jitsu but when I was diagnosed I was told I must start treatment straight away, so everything came to a halt. I didn’t realise how serious leukaemia was until the doctor said I wouldn’t be able to go back to uni and all my hair will fall out.
It was very unexpected and although I had a feeling something was wrong I hadn’t ever imagined it was such a serious illness.
Finding a match
When the results for my first bone marrow biopsy showed that the type of leukaemia I had involved a chromosome defect, it meant my best chance of being cured was by having a stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy alone would not work.
I remember one of the most devastating moments was after my second cycle of chemo when my doctor told me the team was going to stop searching for a match as the chances were so low, and they had, up to that point, been unsuccessful.
Miraculously, a few weeks later a match was found in Brazil, and I had my transplant about a month after in August 2016.
An intense experience
During my transplant it was quite intense knowing a small bag of stem cells that was being infused into my bloodstream had the potential to save my life. After my transplant it was a difficult time as the regimen I had was quite intense and, due to complications, recovery took a very long time.
Things do get better
Life has been different after my transplant, and I don’t expect things to ever go back to how they used to be. It is a new normal. Learning to live with the long-term side effects and adjust to my new capabilities is simply part of the process, and I am so grateful for everything.
After my transplant, when I was very poorly and couldn’t do much, it was very difficult for me socially, emotionally, physically and mentally. Everything seemed grey. But as time went on, things really did start to improve and although I got so sick of hearing the doctors say things will get better, they eventually did and I hope will continue to do so.
A stranger saved my life
Having a stranger donate their cells to me means so much that I find expressing that in mere words almost impossible. I believe that saving one life is like saving humanity and, in honour of that, I aspire to live my life in a way which leaves a positive impact on humanity.
I have sent a letter to my donor to try and express my gratitude to them and hope to one day be able to meet them.