Johnny Pearson, 44, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in 2010 and had his transplant two years later. In 2014, Johnny and his donor Sean ran the London Marathon together to raise money for Anthony Nolan.
‘I found out about the illness when I had a series of ailments: I had shortness of breath when I was playing cricket, achy shoulders and back, sore teeth, sore throat, all in the space of about a month. A friend told me that I really ought to go and get myself checked out. And that’s when I was told I had acute myeloid leukaemia.
‘My children were at very vulnerable ages, eight and seven. It was important for me to explain that I was unwell, but that doctors were going to do what they could to make me better. They took it in their stride and they just continued with life as normal. They missed Daddy when he was in the hospital, but I got to see them during the treatment and they were so brave.
‘The search for a match is quite exciting. You’re desperately hoping that there is someone out there willing to help you. We tried my brother and sister and they weren’t a match, but within 6-8 weeks I got the news that they’d found a donor. That gave me so much hope for the future. The transplant took place on 3 February 2012. That’s a date that is never going to leave my mind: it’s the start of a new life.
‘Life post-transplant has been very challenging. Right from the offset you’re mentally drained and you’re physically very, very weak. But I’m a very “go get ‘em” kind of person and I couldn’t sit on my backside for long, so I found myself walking and running as soon as I possibly could. I also set up a couple of businesses – one of them is a kayaking business. One of my passions now is getting on the canoe, and with a very tranquil environment around me, I can just think nice thoughts while I cruise up and down the river. It seems to help get rid of the black days.’