By Jane Elliott
BBC News website health reporter
Sarah Thompson has acute myeloid leukaemia and desperately needs a bone marrow transplant.
Sarah and her family are trying to recruit donors
Because she is mixed race she knows her chances are slim as there is a shortage of ethnic minority donors.
But Sarah, a teacher, is convinced she has a match somewhere and says everybody should register.
“I was first diagnosed in May 2004 and was initially told that I had a good chance of fighting my leukaemia, even though by the time I went to the doctors with my symptoms it was already far advanced.
“My sister, mother and I get dizzy and feel faint when we are tired or hungry anyway, and I did not realise these were also the symptoms for leukaemia.
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“If I try to think about it too deeply it is just mind blowing. We are just dependent on other people’s selflessness”
“It wasn’t until I also started noticing the bruising, which had no other cause, that I started to worry there was something wrong.
“I had also had a number of colds, and the night before I went to the doctor I had a very high fever.
“The doctor I saw was a locum and he immediately spotted there was a problem.
“If I had waited even a few more weeks I would have probably died.
“I went to my hospital in Lewisham and collapsed while I was waiting to have my blood taken. I did not come out of the hospital again for another six weeks.
“They told me I had acute myeloid leukaemia and in the same breath they told me that I would also be infertile from the chemotherapy.
“The leukaemia was so far advanced they could not wait to harvest my eggs and I had to start treatment immediately.
“I had my first round of chemotherapy and went into remission and then had my next three rounds.”
Sarah says the real problem began once the chemotherapy had started working.
“It kills good cells as well as the bad cells and you become ‘neutropenic’ and have no immune system or protection against infection.
“You have to avoid certain foods and contact with people, the nurses must wear gloves and aprons at all times.
Sarah’s condition was spotted late
“Visitors are kept to close family only and you are not allowed any contact. So when you are feeling at your lowest you can’t even hug your partner!
“I usually got at least one infection after each round of chemo. Some have been very serious and worrying.”
Sarah had a relapse and was warned she needed a bone marrow transplant as she would relapse again.
“So then my husband Mark and my family started the search for a donor. I knew that because I am mixed race it would be more difficult. I have only one sibling, Laura, and was told she was not a match.
“If you are from a white heritage you have a one in five chance of finding a donor. This drops to one in 100,000 if you are from any of the ethnic minorities, because there are so few black and mixed race people on the register.
“It is scary waiting for a transplant and it is frustrating.
“It is bad enough to have to beat cancer once but for it then to come back and to face it coming back again and again is devastating.
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“I am relying on someone coming forward, and waiting is just so scary”
“You go through all the chemo and they tell you that the next stage is to put you on the register for a transplant, but then you are told that there is no-one for you.
“To avoid becoming completely depressed I try to turn a negative into a positive.
“We have put over 100 people on the register and I feel we have made a difference.
“If I try to think about it too deeply it’s just mind blowing. We are just dependent on other people’s selflessness.
“If everybody put themselves on the register, I might not be in this position, but I am relying on someone coming forward and waiting is just so scary.
“I have done all I can on my own – now I need someone else’s help.”
Sarah says she has not given up hope that a match will be found.
“I feel sometimes that I have been chosen to go through this to help raise awareness and even when I find my match we will not stop campaigning for people to register.
“The doctors have told me that if they cannot find a match that they will try stem cell transplant and while I am well they are going to harvest my cells in preparation.
“But I am hoping this is not going to be necessary as it is not supposed to work as well. I am just hoping that they will find a match.
“I can’t keep on having chemo because it is highly toxic and has such a harmful effect on the body long term.
“In the meantime I must just wait for this unknown person to come forward.
“Please anybody reading this come forward and register. I feel I deserve a break and some good news. For the last two years I have been through such an emotional roller-coaster.”
- The next recruitment drives are on 22 April between 10am and 6pm at the London Bridge Fire Station, Southwark Bridge Road and 26 April between 2.30pm and 9pm at Waverley School, Dulwich.
- Caribbean Leukaemia Trust 0208 667 1122