My friend Anthony, a boy who changed the world - Alan's Story

May 2, 2019
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In 1978, Alan Corley was diagnosed with leukaemia aged five, and spent the next two years being treated at Westminster Children’s hospital – in the room right next door to Anthony Nolan. To pay tribute to his friend’s amazing legacy, on what would have been his 50th birthday, Alan looks back on their time together.

I was one of the lucky ones

I was diagnosed with leukaemia when I was five. I remember it was two days into the first year of infant school and I ended up being off school for nearly two years. I spent those two years in the same hospital as Anthony Nolan - we were in adjoining rooms. I was six at the time and he was seven. There was a glass window between us and during the day we would talk to each other and play cards through the glass. We only saw each other really, there was nobody else. 

I had a painful time there, but I was one of the lucky ones. The second lot of treatment worked, and I was released as an outpatient. Sadly, not long after that, Anthony passed away. 

I remember Shirley, Anthony’s mum, doing her campaigning and we would all give her lots of support. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realised how much work she had done. I saw something on Facebook about the charity ‘Anthony Nolan’ and I was amazed. I wanted to do something to help so I started fundraising. 


Half a century on, your support means we can give three people a second chance of life every day. Find out how you can continue Anthony’s amazing legacy.

It’s brought back so many memories

Since getting involved with the charity, it’s brought back so many memories, mostly good ones. One of my favourite memories was Pancake Day when my dad came down to the ward and cooked pancakes for me. Then he ended up making pancakes for the whole ward, including the nurses! 

I read Shirley Nolan’s book which is called ‘A Kiss Through Glass’ – that sparked a lot of memories too. When I saw that title, I felt really emotional. I knew exactly what it meant. In the evening, when the parents used to come down to our isolation ward to say goodnight, they would go to the door and give us a kiss through the glass. 

I don’t remember a lot of the bad things - as a child, you don’t really realise what’s going on. My father stayed with me for over six months while I was on the ward and he got to know other parents and the other children, including Shirley. 

It must have been very draining for the parents. At that time, only one in four children survived. He told me that he would see children playing on the ward and they would be gone the next day. 

I get emotional talking to people about it but it’s so important to me to raise awareness. It’s amazing that, because of what they started, thousands of lives have been saved. But there are still people who, like Anthony, can’t find a donor. So, I want to do everything I can to help. 

I want tell everybody about this amazing charity and the work that it does. By getting involved, you could save a life!