Patient Story

Sharleigh's miracle

I was devastated when I received the diagnosis that I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). I struggled between feeling emotionally overwhelmed and powerless alternated with an uprising of strength and focus, without ever finding an exact balance.

Last updated: 09/09/2021

I was devastated when I received the diagnosis that I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). I was diagnosed in 2011 at the age of 33 after experiencing bruises on my arm and leg. I thought I was anaemic and went for blood tests. I struggled between feeling emotionally overwhelmed and powerless alternated with an uprising of strength and focus, without ever finding an exact balance.

The tests revealed that I had a blood disorder, my platelets were 17 and my white blood cells were under attack. I was admitted into an isolation ward and immediately started chemotherapy in Westville, Durban, South Africa.

I initially underwent an exhausting treatment process of chemotherapy, blood and platelet transfusions while having suffered two strokes before finding out that cancer had spread to my spinal fluid.

Completing eleven lumbar punctures, more chemo, a punctured lung and being paralysed from the neck down did not stop me from having faith in God and feeling hopeful.

Miraculously, my own stem cells began harvesting, which were successfully transplanted on 1 October 2014.

The preparation was the hardest part. The chemotherapy destroyed my body in a way that I never want to remember. As hard as it was, I could not take my eye off the result and knew that although the preparation was intense, the result would be worth it. The day of the transplant was surreal, I laid there as they read out my full name and ID number as if they declared me dead and announced my birth at the same time.

It was over within 7 minutes. Quite an anti-climax for a drama queen like me! And to think I even wanted to have an outfit made for the occasion. It was painless and peaceful and very professionally carried out.

Only after I had begun to recover was I ready for a stem cell transplant.

Going home after being in an isolation ward for 194 days was one of the best days of my life. I was with my family and could feel the sunshine on my face. I recovered well as the search started for a bone marrow match. I knew I has less than one in 100 000 chance of finding my perfect match.

Now in remission, I believe the word ‘remission’ is ‘freedom’. It is a nine-letter word that closes doors and opens new ones. It is also what every family member around you hopes to hear. I would love to send a message of hope to any person going through a hard time right now. Every one of us has a story but I believe mine is a pure miracle.

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