Renate was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer, in 2009. She had her transplant in 2012.
‘I beat Burkitt’s lymphoma but 14 months later I was unlucky enough to develop leukaemia. Transplantation was my only option, so I had it on 26 April; my new birthday. At the time of diagnosis, I’d already had three horrendous months in hospital and was told I’d need another six.
So I asked the consultant, “If I decide not to have treatment, how long have I got left?”, thinking I could have a few months in the sun. But I only had two to three weeks, so I just had to give treatment a try.
‘I prepared myself for not living much longer. I thought I could either plan a funeral, or I could organise a celebration of life before I go. So that’s what I did.
I had about 55 people from all over the world come to be with me, and we planned a spiritual ritual around it. It took weeks of preparation and that’s what kept me going. I had something to achieve, something to do while not knowing what the outcome would be. It was incredibly special.
‘Returning to yoga has been wonderful. There was a long time where I didn’t want to go near it, but my husband pushed me because he knew that once I got going things would improve. And he was right.
I’m not quite where I was and I probably never will be; my body feels different now. It’s what they call the ‘new normal’: it feels different, responds differently. But I’ve got used to it and it’s great.
‘Once I started feeling better, I thought about all the things I wanted to do. With a transplant you have new hope, but you never know how long it could last. So we went on a pilgrimage in Spain – the Camino Inglés.
We called it a gratitude walk: being thankful that I’m alive, thankful to my donor, thankful to everyone who is on the donor list and giving me the opportunity to be here today.’