Aberdare Laura Leads Campaign For New Donors
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council continues to support the Welsh Blood Service in its campaign to encourage registered donors to donate, as well as urging new donors to register today.
One cancer survivor from Rhondda Cynon Taf, who overcame '16M-to-One’ odds would also like to see more young people aged 17-30 join the fight against blood cancer by joining the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
Laura James, 35, of Aberdare, overcame acute myeloid leukaemia in December 2012 thanks to a bone marrow donation she received from a stranger.
Now a decade in remission, Laura recently marked her 10 years ‘all clear’ by ringing the bell in an emotional afternoon at Velindre Cancer Centre, where her treatment originally began.
After four rounds of chemotherapy treatment, Laura relapsed and was told her only chance to survive was to receive a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, no one in her family was a suitable match and Laura’s only hope was to seek help from a stranger.
A worldwide search was urgently launched to find a suitable donor, and four and a half months later, a perfect match was found 10,000 miles away in Australia.
Laura James, of Aberdare, said: “I know how lucky I am to find a match. The doctors at the time told me the chance of finding a match was 16M-to-one. I experienced so many emotions knowing a selfless stranger was willing to save my life – joy, hope, anxiety; you name it. This is why I am keen to share my story, as hard as it is to do, I want to help as many people as possible.
“My life became transfusions of blood and platelets, hospital beds, hospital food, high doses of chemotherapy, and constant isolation. It was not the life I expected, but I was determined to get through it with a positive attitude and buckets full of strength until my donor was found.”
Blood cancers stop bone marrow from working correctly, and for these patients, the best hope of recovery is to receive blood products and, ultimately, a bone marrow transplant. Registries across the globe are searched every day by clinicians looking for suitable bone marrow donor matches for their blood cancer patients who are desperately in need.
Even in remission, Laura’s journey continues. She has recently joined the Welsh Blood Service in a role where her first-hand experience of receiving blood, platelets and bone marrow is now helping her to call on more people to consider donating.
Christopher Harvey, Head of the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry, said: “For a patient like Laura, finding a matched donor on the Registry is priceless, but not everyone is as lucky as Laura. We need more volunteers aged 17 to 30 to sign up to the Registry.
“Signing up is easier than ever. You can request a swab kit without leaving home through the Welsh Blood Service website or book to give blood and ask about joining when you donate.”
Laura received her lifesaving bone marrow transplant at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, under Dr Keith Wilson, Consultant Haematologist and Director of the South Wales Blood and Marrow Transplant Programme.
Dr Keith Wilson said: “For many patients with blood cancer, a bone marrow transplant represents their only means of overcoming the disease. Only one in four patients will find a suitable match from a family member, meaning most patients, including Laura, depend on donations from unrelated volunteers on registries across the world.
“As a transplant consultant, it is very heartening to inform our patients when we find a match. Laura is living proof of what can be achieved by the selfless donation of others.”
Councillor Robert Harris, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities, said: “We are delighted to hear about Laura’s journey and how the Bone Marrow Donor Registry has literally saved her life.
“I would urge any 17 to 30 year-olds living in Rhondda Cynon Taf to consider registering today – your decision and donation could have a huge impact on someone’s life.”
Joining the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry is a lifesaving gift. If you are aged 17-30, sign up today. Visit Welsh Blood and start your journey in the fight against blood cancer.