The mum of a nine-year-old girl with a blood cancer, is calling for more people to sign up as potential stem cell donors, with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan. She has been told that her daughter will need a stem cell transplant, from a stranger, if she is to be cured.
Aurora Pile – Gray from Westbrook, Kent, was diagnosed with stage four Lymphoma in May of this year. She had started complaining of a sore chin which within two weeks progressed to blood clots, golf ball sized lumps on her neck and extreme tiredness. After several trips to her GP and A&E, she was devastatingly diagnosed with blood cancer.
Aurora’s mum Keisha said: ‘We had gone to A&E where she had had some blood tests, which suggested that there were abnormalities in her white blood cells. The doctor said that she couldn’t be sure which type, but she knew our little girl had cancer.
‘There’s no preparing for a diagnosis like that. There’s no way to prepare your child for a diagnosis like that, and there’s no way to prepare for how quickly you have to move to catch it. By 9:00pm that evening we were in an ambulance on our way to London. Everything has moved at 100mph and it’s been an emotional rollercoaster.’
A bone marrow biopsy the following day confirmed that Aurora had stage four Lymphoma and that she would need to start chemotherapy immediately.
It’s been an incredibly difficult few months for Keisha and her family who, since May, has seen all three of her children be diagnosed with life changing conditions. In August, Oscar who is less than a year old was diagnosed with epilepsy, and in September, Ada-Ireland, who is two years old was diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
Keisha said: ‘People have asked time and time again how we have coped, but the truth is, we have no choice. Oscar’s seizures have worsened, frightening the life out of us and Ada has an urgent referral and two night stay in Great Ormond Street next month, and Aurora now has refractory lymphoma. Honestly, as a family we are struggling.’
Two weeks ago, after five months of chemotherapy, Aurora’s consultant told her family that her most recent bone marrow result had revealed that the chemotherapy was not working. Not only was she not in remission, but this time her cancer was more aggressive, with 40% of her bone marrow being affected, 50% more than when she was initially diagnosed.
Keisha said: ‘I had to sit down with our daughter and tell her that not only was she still sick, she was more sick than when she started, and she needed more treatment, including a stem cell transplant.
‘Before she can begin any further treatment, she needs a donor match lined up, ready for transplant, which is our only hope. She will be starting intensive chemotherapy again in preparation for transplant when a match is found.
‘I’m desperate. I can’t fathom the alternative if we don’t find a match and Aurora suffers the consequences. She doesn’t deserve it and I will do anything I can to get her through every single battle she has to overcome.’
Anthony Nolan has jumped into action, searching the stem cell register for a special stranger who could save Aurora’s life.
Currently patients, like Aurora, from a mixed ethnic background, have a 20% chance of finding an unrelated stem cell donor match, compared to 69% for people with white, European heritage.
Keisha said: ‘Multi-racial individuals like Aurora, currently face the worst odds of finding a donor due to their genetic make up, alongside the lack of availability, which is why it is so important to spread awareness and encourage everyone to sign up.’
Anthony Nolan recruits people aged 16–30 to the stem cell register as research has shown younger people are more likely to be chosen to donate.
They also carry out ground-breaking research to save more lives and provide information and support to patients after a stem cell transplant, through its clinical nurse specialists and psychologists, who help guide patients through their recovery.
It costs £40 to recruit each potential donor to the register, so Anthony Nolan relies on financial support.
Rebecca Pritchard, who leads the Register Development team at Anthony Nolan said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support Aurora’s family and their search for a donor, during this difficult time.
‘Every single person who signs up to the register has the potential to give hope to someone, like Aurora, who is in desperate need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant.
‘We’re particularly calling on people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and young men aged 16–30, to join the register. Young men provide more than 50% of all stem cell donations but make up just 18% of our register. Together, we can work towards a future where nobody is waiting for their match.’
To find about more about joining the Anthony Nolan register, or to find out more about the different ways you can support, please visit www.anthonynolan.org/Aurora