A young student, who is battling a rare blood disorder, has been told her best hope of recovery lies in the hands of a stranger.
Twenty-year-old Alice Byron, from Oxfordshire, who had just finished her second year of studying English at Cardiff University, started to feel ill this summer.
Alice said, “I felt very tired but I just thought this was a normal part of student and working life. I didn’t go to my GP because I didn’t want to bother them but one day I went shopping and I was sick everywhere. I was so humiliated and embarrassed. I knew something was wrong and went to the doctors, as I just didn’t feel like myself.”
At first doctors thought Alice may have anaemia but tests later revealed her condition was much more serious. It was then Alice was told she had a blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) which was very likely to develop into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
“When I got the diagnosis the news didn’t sink in at all,” said Alice. “When they said it could progress to leukaemia, I was so shocked. It took a long time to register that this was going to affect my future. I was convinced it would be easily treatable and have little impact on my life, but that isn’t the case.
“It feels like I have to put my life on hold for now. Putting my ambitions and the normal hopes and dreams of a young person has been really hard to come to terms with.”
Alice has now been told that her best hope of a long term cure is a bone marrow transplant. As her siblings were not a match, Alice is now reliant upon a stranger to save her life through the Anthony Nolan donor register.
“My recovery is now in the hands of other people, which is a strange, uncertain feeling. It’s amazing to know there are people out there who are willing to help people they don’t know and who have signed up to the donor register.
“I think signing up to the register is something that a lot of people mean to do but maybe don’t get round to it. I hope my story gives these people the final push to go on the Anthony Nolan website, sign up and maybe save someone.”
In fact, Alice’s best hope may come from her fellow students. Anthony Nolan recently revealed new statistics, showing that an incredible 1 in 4 bone marrow donors are recruited at university, by student volunteer groups called ‘Marrow’ groups.
As young people are the most likely to donate, Marrow’s work is particularly important for people like Alice who are searching for a match. In the last two years, student donors who signed up at university have given 227 strangers in the chance of life, by donating their stem cells. This represents an incredible 27% of the 841 unrelated stem cell donations that have occurred in UK since 2013.
After hearing about their fellow student’s plight Cardiff Marrow will be recruiting new donors in Alice’s name.
Ellie Philpotts, volunteer at Cardiff Marrow said, “'It's heartbreaking to hear that our fellow Cardiff student, Alice, is going through a tough time. Her story hits home and makes Anthony Nolan and Marrow's work seem all the more crucial. We're fully getting behind her campaign to encourage more people to join the register and send Alice our best wishes for her recovery.'
Karen Archer, Regional Register Development Manager at Anthony Nolan, said, “We are so inspired by Alice’s campaign to find a match, not just for herself, but for everyone who needs a transplant.
“What many people don’t realise is how easy it is to join the register and donate. All you have to do is fill out a simple form and provide a saliva sample. If you beat the 1 in 1,200 odds to be a match for someone, it’s an incredibly straight-forward procedure which is very similar to giving blood.”