28 July 2020
A single mum of two is urgently seeking her lifesaver to help her beat leukaemia, and give her a second chance at life with her children.
Praxedes Garcia, 43, is originally from Barcelona, but made London her home in 2014, and now lives in Fulham with her daughters Maxima, 12, and Olimpia, 9.
Life was good for the family of three, and last year, after 14 years of working for other people, Praxedes took the brave step of setting up her own business - a boutique real estate investment firm - as well as preparing to move the family to a new home.
Praxedes said: “It was the last week of January this year, and I was very busy packing and organising the move to our new home. I started shivering at night, I had very bad headaches, a fever, my gums started bleeding and I was extremely tired. My gut feeling was telling me that it was something serious. But I had the children, and needed to move house, and had nobody around to help me”.
“The move was difficult. The removal company were carrying boxes, and I wanted to faint, but managed to keep going.”
Once the move was done, Praxedes went to the GP, who initially diagnosed her with seasonal flu.
“I told her that it felt more serious than flu, and I wanted to have a blood test. She gave me a small piece of paper where she wrote: Ibuprofen for 7 days. I still have this as a reminder of the importance of listening to your body and instincts.”
After following doctors orders, Praxedes continued to feel unwell, and a few days later, shivering in her bed, she decided to go to the hospital where she was given a blood test. She was sent home, but an hour later the hospital called her and delivered the devastating diagnosis: she had leukaemia.
Praxedes was told to return to the hospital immediately, where she would be admitted as an in-patient. She said: “That night was the worst night of my life. I couldn’t sleep, only cry. It felt like a nightmare and I just wanted to wake up. I couldn’t stop thinking about my daughters and their future.”
The next day, Praxedes was transferred to Hammersmith Hospital and given a full diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a condition that affects around 800 people per year in the UK. Doctors told her she would need three phases of chemotherapy, each lasting 28 days, followed by a blood stem cell transplant.
For this, doctors need to find her ‘genetic twin’. Someone, somewhere in the world, with the same genetic make up as Praxedes. But currently there is no registered match for Praxedes on the worldwide register.
Praxedes said: “This makes me feel very anxious, as it doesn’t matter how well I cope with chemo, I will only get cured if we can find my match”.
“I think very often about death for the first time in my life. I feel it is trying to catch me. But I must keep on going, if not for me, then for my daughters”.
In the UK, 2000 people per year are searching for their potential blood stem cell donor, but with only 2% of the UK’s population on the register, and the number of new people signing up as potential donors drastically falling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, blood cancer patients like Praxedes are facing an uncertain future.
Every 14 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer or blood disorder, and as Praxedes knows only too well, the disease does not discriminate.
She said: “I was very healthy, one of those people who never gets sick. I was exercising often, so thought ‘why me?’ We live our lives thinking that we are invincible, when in the end we are actually very vulnerable”.
“My fight ends with the generosity and solidarity of others. I can only win this battle with your help. Even if you’re not my match, you might be the match of someone else: a child, a teenager, a father, a mother, a son or daughter. Someone who is loved by their family and friends; someone with dreams to accomplish. Someone who deserves a second chance.”