Katie with her daughter Shayah
A young mum from Castlecroft, Wolverhampton is calling for more people to sign up as potential stem cell donors, with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, after being told that she desperately needs a stem cell transplant to cure her blood cancer.
Katie Wright, 25, is a mental health nursing student at the University of Wolverhampton, and was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 17 years old, after discovering a lump on her neck.
Following several six cycles of chemotherapy, Katie was told that she would need a stem cell transplant if she was to be cured of the disease. Her sister, who is her only sibling, was then tested to see if she was a match. Thankfully she was confirmed as a match and the transplant went ahead in November 2013.
After recovering from her transplant, Katie applied to study nursing at university and had a daughter, Shayah, who is now two years old. However, in June this year Katie received the devastating news that not only had her cancer returned but that this time she would need a transplant from an unrelated donor.
Katie said: ‘When I left school I became a healthcare assistant and did an NVQ in care. I thought university wouldn’t be for me but after my stem cell transplant the care I received inspired me to go to university and train to be a nurse.’
When Katie was six months into her course, she discovered she was pregnant, something she was told would never happen naturally.
‘Discovering I was pregnant with my daughter Shayah was a complete surprise! Before going through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant I had my eggs frozen, as I was told that I wouldn’t be able to have children naturally.
‘I had a year off on maternity leave and then went back to university to start my second year. In April this year I started feeling run down and I had a really bad cough, I thought I’m so close to finishing my course, I’m in my final year, I just need to push through.
‘I didn’t think about my cancer coming back at all. I thought I’ve got a cough and that’s why I’m feeling run down.”
A blood test showed abnormal cells and Katie was later told that her cancer had returned, and that this time it was stage four. She will now have six cycles of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant, if a matching donor is found for her.
Katie said: ‘I was just totally devastated to hear those words. I thought my first transplant would be it and to hear that I have to go through this all again is devastating.
‘I know that it will be harder for me to find a match because of my ethnicity, so I really want to raise awareness and encourage more black people to join the register. I want people to know that it’s a simple procedure if you’re found to be a match for someone.
‘Finding a match is a really big worry for me. I didn’t have that worry last time as my sister was a match.’
It’s more difficult for black patients to find unrelated donors with matching tissue types. Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match, and this drops dramatically to around 20%, if you're from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background.
Katie said: ‘I just want to get better, so I can go back to university and get on with my life. The university have supported me so much through this difficult time.’
Rebecca Sedgwick, National Recruitment Manager at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support Katie during this difficult time. Each new donor Katie inspires to join the Anthony Nolan register could mean a second chance for someone in need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant.
‘We’re particularly calling on young men aged 16-30 and those from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to join to give hope to more patients. Together, we can work towards a future where nobody is waiting for their match.’
To find out more about joining the Anthony Nolan register, or to find out more about the different ways you can support, please visit www.anthonynolan.org/katie