Alive thanks to my sister and kindness of strangers
Preesall woman battling cancer reveals how hero blood donors helped give her a lifeline
Lesley Ronson was a blood donor herself for many years but admits she never really considered the full implications of the people who might benefit from her donation.
Lesley has now experienced the other side of blood donation as she received 62 units of red blood cells and 58 units of platelets over a 12-month period while battling Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.
Laughing, Lesley says: “I have certainly had more than my fair share!”
But on a more serious note, Lesley says she is immensely grateful to all those who donate blood and her words are simply: “If it wasn’t for blood donors, I would not be here today. It was the blood I received that kept me alive during my treatment and kept me strong enough to withstand the treatment.”
Lesley, 49, who lives in Preesall, was diagnosed with Stage 4 T-cell Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after initially going to her GP with joint pain and was referred to hospital as they thought it might be arthritis.
It was only after Lesley’s partner Stephen Millward mentioned that Lesley had experienced weight loss that she was sent for blood tests and chest X-rays to investigate further.
Lesley, who was working as a housing officer for Blackpool Coastal Housing at the time, explains: “I had lost weight but you find ways to reason for it and I had put it down to being stressed at work and not eating properly. But after I had the tests done, they told me I had lymphoma.”
Lesley had chemotherapy followed by high-dose chemotherapy as an in-patient. She then had a stem cell transplant in 2011 using her own cell stems which were harvested before treatment.
However, the cancer returned and Lesley faced more chemotherapy and she then had a sibling transplant in June 2012 with her sister Lorraine donating her stem cells.
Lesley says: “There is a one in four chance of a sibling match and I only have one sister and thankfully she was a 100 per cent match.
“Lorraine was just so glad she could do it for me. She is a vegetarian and she even asked the doctors if she should eat meat if that would help me more. But luckily for her, she did not have to do this!
“We are very close and I can’t thank her enough for what she did for me.”
It was while Lesley was having chemotherapy that she needed to have blood given to her. She says: “When you have chemotherapy, it kills the cancer cells but it also kills the healthy cells.
“At Blackpool, I received 62 units of red blood cells and 58 units of platelets. The blood was a lifeline for me. The chemotherapy killed the cancer but without the blood, I would not be alive.”
Lesley, who is now a volunteer for Homeless Hounds based at Stanah, in Thornton, became a blood donor herself in the 1980s but says: “When you donate blood, you don’t really think too much about who will receive it and how it could save their life. But now I have benefited from it, it has really made me appreciate how important blood donation is.”
Amanda Eccles, senior marketing co-ordinator at NHS Blood and Transplant, says: “One blood donation can save or improve the lives of up to three people so donors really can make a huge difference each time they attend a session. Our dedicated blood donors have helped us to keep blood stocks at a healthy level over the winter months and we would like to thank them for this. However, the need for blood never stops and more than 6,000 blood donations are needed by hospitals in England every day. Giving blood doesn’t take too long. It should take less than an hour from arriving at your appointment time to completing your donation. So please make the time to give blood, you never know whose life you could save.”
• To book an appointment to donate visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23 to find your nearest session.
1.6m units of blood are needed each year to meet the needs of patients in England
200,000 new blood donors each year are needed to replace those who no longer donate