A young woman from Manchester is running the London Marathon next week, for the charity that found her a life saving stem cell donor when she was diagnosed with two types of leukaemia, and given just hours to live, at three months old.

Natasha Reid, 22, from Middleton graduated from York University last year and dreams of moving to Berlin and working in the charity sector, but none of this would have been possible without her donor. She is now raising money for blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan. The charity finds and matches donors, of the correct tissue types, with patients with blood cancers and disorders who need lifesaving stem cell transplants.

Natasha was diagnosed with both acute myeloid leukaemia and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when she was just three months old. Natasha’s mum Claire decided to take Natasha to see her GP when she started to look particularly pale and developed a rash on her legs. From there she was sent to A&E, where further tests revealed she had leukaemia.

When Natasha was first diagnosed, doctors told her parents that they didn’t know whether she would survive the next 24 hours. They were also told that if she did, a stem cell transplant would be her only chance of a cure, as they couldn’t cure her type of leukaemia with chemotherapy alone.

Claire said: ‘We really didn’t know if she had hours to live. Morning came, and she was doing okay, so the decision was made to start chemotherapy. The hope was that it would destroy all of the leukaemia cells, but they told us the leukaemia would come back – it wasn’t a curative treatment.

‘They started to look for a donor straight away – Natasha’s older sister wasn’t a match, so Anthony Nolan had to search the stem cell register for an unrelated donor.  This was all going on in the background while she was having intensive chemotherapy, which was making her really sick.’

A donor was found but Natasha’s transplant was unfortunately unsuccessful and a year later her leukaemia returned. Doctors said that a second transplant was unlikely to work but Claire saw a glimmer of hope and was told ‘if there is a donor, we will give it a chance’.

Claire said: ‘It was a different feeling that time. You know that you really are at the end of the road. We’re out of options. If they can’t find a donor, she won’t survive, and we’re putting her through all this for nothing. It was a very emotional time.’

Anthony Nolan found a second donor for Natasha and, this year, she will celebrate her 20 year transplant anniversary.

Claire said: ‘Sometimes you have to pinch yourself because you just can’t believe it. Without a donor, she wouldn’t be here today. It really is incredible. She’s had a few issues with her health but it’s nothing compared to what could have been. All her achievements and the way she lives her life to the fullest, is just incredible. We’re so grateful.’

‘I sent a card to the donor, not long after the transplant and he sent one back. We’ve still got it. You do think about the donor and I don’t know if he fully realises the impact he’s had on our lives. We’ll be eternally grateful. We respect his anonymity – we’ve not been in touch since then, but I get that not everybody wants to be found.’

Natasha comes from a family of runners, both of Natasha’s uncles have ran the London Marathon and her great uncle used to be an Olympic runner. After running a half marathon last year, she decided to follow in their footsteps and sign up for the London Marathon herself.

Natasha said: ‘I can’t wait for the London Marathon. Fundraising is my way of getting the word out.

 It’s amazing that a stranger did this for me. I’ve been able to do so much, thanks to him. Last year I did a half marathon and graduated university – I had to get three As at A-level to get in which nearly killed me, but I did it!

‘When I went to uni, I realised that so many people don’t know anything about the stem cell register, but when people do find out, they want to sign up. I did some volunteering with York Marrow, one of Anthony Nolan’s student volunteer groups to help spread the word. It’s an amazing thing, more people need to know about it. It works, I’m the proof, I’m here!’

Kirsty Mooney, Head of Events at Anthony Nolan, said, “We are delighted that Natasha is lacing up her trainers and running the London Marathon for us this year. With every mile completed Team AN will be providing hope. The funds they raise will enable us to recruit potential stem cell donors to the Anthony Nolan register – any one of whom could give a second chance of life for someone with blood cancer.”

You can sponsor Natasha here –  https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=NatashaReid1&pageUrl=1


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