Mark was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in September 2003 and had his transplant the following year.
In 2012 he went to New York to meet his donor Audrey, a US postal worker who had joined the register only six months before Mark was diagnosed.
‘When I was diagnosed it was a massive shock, but it’s quite difficult to know how you should react. It was surreal to be told “you’ve got cancer” when you feel fine. I didn’t know what a transplant entailed, so I was learning a lot on the fly while at the same time trying to understand that I’ve got this life-threatening illness and what the options are – and what the outcomes could be.
‘After my transplant, I learned that my donor was called Audrey and that she lived in New York. It wasn’t until six months before I got diagnosed that she actually joined the bone marrow register. And they said to her “it’s
unlikely you’ll ever be called”.
I waited a couple of years before I spoke to Audrey: we talked via email, Skype calls and we exchanged photos – you start building a picture of them and their family.
‘I finally met her last year in New York. The meeting itself was a surprise for Audrey, organised by her husband Vernon. They both work for the US postal service, so they did a massive drive to get their employees to become donors.
Our meeting was a big event, with the local media and everything. I had a big speech planned but you suddenly realise the impact this person has had on your life and everything goes out the window! Audrey and her family are fantastic; it felt like we’d known them all our lives.
‘Now, touch wood, everything is fine. Next year I’ll be ten years in remission. And I rarely think about the fact I have leukaemia. I moved back to Birmingham to be closer to my family and I live here with my beautiful girlfriend, Andrea. Life is as normal as it could be.’