Norah is celebrating 10 years since her stem cell transplant this June.
In 2013, Norah had been back and forth to the hospital without getting an exact diagnosis, but she fought hard to get to the bottom of what was happening to her.
‘Myelodysplastic syndrome’ was the answer, and after five months in hospital, a stem cell transplant and some added complications, Norah finally went home. Here she tells us about her experience.
I was allowed to leave hospital at the end of June. I remember on my return journey home noticing how people were wearing summer clothes and T-shirts; I remember thinking how could this be? I had spent so much time in hospital that the season had changed. It was almost like coming out of a coma, and I was just waking up.
The nursing staff at ward 24 (where I received some of my treatment) were truly wonderful people. After spending so much time with them, they felt like sisters to me. They were always there with an ear to listen to me when things were tough.
When I was moved to the transplant unit in Scotland, I clearly remember one nurse in particular – Lorna – who was like a little angel caring for me. She is such a special person; I will never forget how she cared for me. She is a nurse for Anthony Nolan now. Sometime after transplant I attended a further hospital appointment, and she was in clinic.
I felt very emotional, and it just brought it all back to me. I wanted to tell her how much I admired how she had cared for me, but just could not get the words out. I speak often with her to this day, but still cannot get these words of gratitude out.
- New chapter
I felt terrified of joining the Late Effects Clinic because I was starting another chapter in my life and meeting new people again after being so isolated. But sincerely, it has been a remarkable journey to meet Laura and her dedicated team of medics and nursing staff.
I still feel completely guided by them to this day. If I ever need help or advice at any time, they are always there for all of us at any time, a listening ear that is there in times of doubt or fear. They are truly dedicated and remarkable bunch.
Life after transplant is a hard journey, and involved losing a lot of what I had before I took ill. I lost my confidence, self-esteem, job, work colleagues, and some friends. They could not really deal with me being ill and seemed to disown me. I felt lost.
However, I realised those people could not have really been my true friends. Over the years I have become stronger, accepting I have a new life now, true friends and lots of family supporting me.
My life after transplant would never have happened if this donor had not come forward and given me this gift of life.
I have never met my unrelated donor and don’t know if I ever will. But they are always close to my heart. I am truly grateful; words cannot express what this person has done for me.
I became involved with Anthony Nolan a few years ago supporting questionnaires, visiting schools to recruit donors to the register. I have been to events, and I have attended Anthony Nolan HQ to help them with one of their booklets a few years ago when they wanted a patient’s perspective.
I am happy to help and volunteer for almost anything for Anthony Nolan. I feel before transplant I was very ignorant of Anthony Nolan and didn’t really know a lot about the charity. I would love to see Anthony Nolan publicised more to raise awareness.
Can I add, I would like to thank and praise Anthony Nolan for the support and guidance they have given me over the years. A truly remarkable team!
- Family fun
I had my stem cell transplant in June 2013 and my first granddaughter, Alyssa, was born when I was in the hospital. I felt very emotional that I could not be with my family and did not see Alyssa until she was five weeks old. At the time, I prayed that I would see her starting school at the age of five.
Alyssa is almost 10 now. I am very lucky now to have five grandchildren, one grandson at nursery and four granddaughters who are all at school now. So, I have seen four of my grandchildren start school and looking forward to my grandson Ethan’s first day.
My granddaughters cheekily ask me: ‘Gran, why have you got poppy hair?' (Poppy is a cartoon character from the Trolls programme, known for her large pink tuft of hair on her head). I say to them: ‘I will tell you one day when you are older.’
Even more cheekily they tell me I need anti-wrinkle cream! I say I am happy to grow old gracefully, and just enjoy every minute in life with my precious family.