Sheila's Lifesavers

Sheila was first diagnosed with Nodular Lymphocyte Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1991. Aged just 29 years old and with 3 young children, a lump in her leg which her GP thought was just a cyst turned out to be cancer. Sheila had visited her doctor as soon as the lump appeared however it would be another 18 months until she was given an appointment for removal. After 4 weeks of radiotherapy she was thankfully given the all clear, however her fight with cancer had just began.

In 1992 Sheila gave birth to a son, despite being told her previous treatment would leave her infertile. Over the next four years, whilst raising her family she would continue the process of having more lumps removed. They all showed reactive changes but no need for any treatment. Then in 1996 she was for the second time diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, the cancer was stage 3, this time she would need 6 months of chemotherapy.

Sheila never presented ‘typical symptoms’ of Hodgkins Lymphoma. It has always been through discovering the lumps and having them removed that the cancer would be diagnosed, Between 1997-2002 Sheila had a futher two lumps removed and by 2002 she was once again diagnosed with Stage 3 Cancer. This would be her third fight against Hodgkins Lymphompa. With another course of chemotherapy and a transplant using her own stem cells she beat the disease.

Sheila was now able to start looking forward to the future.

Over the next 10years Sheila got married and welcomed the first of many grandchildren into the family. In 2013 she visited her GP complaining of joint pain and wondered if it could be arthritis. Her GP referred her to haematology and although her consultant initially thought the referral was unnecessary he agreed to carry out a scan. To everyone’s shock the cancer was back and once again Stage 3. The by now routine course of chemotherapy followed and being the fighter that Sheila is, she beat cancer for a fourth time!

Now to March this year. Like many people in 2020 Sheila was advised to shield due to being at high risk of contracting Covid-19. Unable to be with her friends, children and grandchildren she looked to keep herself occupied by gardening or decorating However at the beginning of June all of that changed. Sheila had developed a fever which included a cough, feeling fatigued as well as experiencing excruciating pain in her legs which meant taking painkillers day and night. In July, having now contacted her GP routine blood tests to be taken. These seem to reveal high iron levels. Sheila was told to return for weekly blood tests and be monitored. By week three she was told ‘everything was off the chart’ and referred back to hematology. A bone marrow sample and a scan were conducted however Sheila's health rapidly deteriorated, Sheila was admitted and spent 5 days in hospital on antibiotics and receiving multiple blood transfusions, it was that at this point during her stay she was told her bone marrow was failing.

An official diagnosis of MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome) which can led to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) was made on September 7th, 2020. Sheila is now desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant. The treatment that once saved her life has left her fighting an even bigger battle now, relying on the kindness of a stranger for a cure.

Are you that stranger?

Every 20 minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer. This diagnosis is devastating, and during the corona virus outbreak, it is even more crucial that we do all we can to offer hope to people with blood cancer and blood disorders. We have seen the numbers of people joining the blood stem cell register decline dramatically in recent times, and now, more than ever before, we need you to sign up. For many, a blood stem cell donation is their best chance of recovery and only 30% of people find a match within their family. This means the remainder will need to find an anonymous blood stem cell donor, and that could be you.

Information about registration

Registering as a blood stem cell donor is easy, simply check your eligibility and request your home swab kit. Once you receive the kit, you will need to swab the inside of your cheek, following the instructions on the pack, before sending them back to us. Once we receive your swabs, they are processed in our lab to determine you tissue typing. Your typing is then stored, in an anonymised form, on the global database. This means you can be identified as a match for anyone in the world

A note about Coronavirus

We understand there are lots of worries and concerns around coronavirus and would like to reassure you that it is completely safe to request and send in your swabs.

If you're a match

If you are identified as a match, you will donate in one of two ways. In the majority of cases this is via a process called “Peripheral Blood Stem Cell collection”, which is a little like giving blood. In 10% of cases, the stem cells are taken from your bone marrow, under general anaesthetic. The method of donation is chosen by the patients team based on what is most suitable for them.

Together we will beat blood cancer.

To register as a blood stem cell donor, you need to be between 17-55, in general good health and not registered with another donor centre. To check your eligibility and request your swab kit, follow the link below.

It costs us £40 to register a new donor on the UK stem cell registry. As a charity, we rely on monetary donations from the public to help cover this cost and greatly appreciate any contribution, no matter how big or small.

If you are unable to register as a potential donor, we would be very grateful if you could consider making a contribution towards the cost of a registration.