Patient Story

Leukaemia survivor Ray's story

I found out I had leukaemia when I was working as a consulting engineer. My initial reaction was one of shock and disbelief. I was emotional and concerned about the well-being of my family and my kids if something were to happen to me.

Last updated: 09/09/2021

I found out I had leukaemia when I was working as a consulting engineer. My initial reaction was one of shock and disbelief. I was emotional and concerned about the well-being of my family and my kids if something were to happen to me. I was worried if I would be able to cope with the treatment while battling to control my thoughts and not wanting to face people.

Fortunately, my brother was a matching donor and I was overwhelmed with emotion when the realisation that I had been given a second chance began to sink in. It took a couple of weeks to run the tests, although it felt much longer. My family and I still get emotional thinking back to the moment we received the good news that I had found a match.

The process of undergoing a stem cell transplant was simple. Prior to the transplant, I took a prescribed dose of tablets that wiped out my bone marrow and hopefully the leukemia too. My brother, Gary donated his healthy stem cells which was collected in a small bag. Lynne Funnell, my wife drove the harvested bag of stem cells to the hospital where I received the transfusion.

About 10 days after the transplant, new bone marrow began to produce fresh blood and the infection cleared up.

I still had a long battle ahead of me, but when eventually regained my health, my attitude changed forever. I overflowed with gratitude for the kindness of all the medical staff, blood donors, platelet donors and my brother for all their life-giving gifts.

I cannot stress enough about the importance of the donor community. I consider myself fortunate to find a donor match with my brother. However, I realised that if my brother was not to be a match, then I would have needed to find a match from an unrelated donor. Every registered stem cell donor brings hope to people like me facing a life-threatening blood disorder and requiring a stem-cell transplant.

The Sunflower Fund partnered by DKMS plays a crucial role in growing the stem-cell donor registry which helps to save lives. The Sunflower Fund team tirelessly spreads awareness of the need for donors and also raises funds to help cover the costs of the tissue typing tests.

Every day was precious. Every day was full of wonder. In 2010, I signed up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and couldn’t believe my fortune a few months later when I stood at the highest point in Africa – it was a special moment that encouraged me to carry on and attempt to climb the 7 summits, the highest point in each continent.

Try not to worry about tomorrow. Live in the moment and enjoy everything – the colours, the tastes, the smells, the kindness of family and strangers. This attitude can get you through tough times. Hold on to your energy. When times are toughest, rest and dream.

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