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137 steps...a donor’s story

By Juana

My sister Tanya was diagnosed with leukaemia. Within two hours she was heading to hospital for treatment.

The next time I saw her she had undergone aggressive chemotherapy and was extremely sick. She could barely move, had lost her hair, her skin was peeling off her body and she was losing finger and toe nails. However, her inner being continued to fight this demon within.

One cannot imagine the strength and courage it must have taken for her to pull through this ordeal. She did, however, as she was in remission for the next 16 months.

Her leukaemia returned and we learned that Tanya required a stem cell transplant. I am her sister and live in the same street - only 137 steps away. I was a perfect match.

The hospital staff extracted white blood cells from me and replaced those which chemotherapy had destroyed in Tanya.

David, Tanya's husband, and I stood and watched every single drop, as it dripped into my sister's body. I said a prayer from all her family and her close friends around the world were praying for her too.

Not once did I think she wouldn't pull through. She was a fighter and a wonderful and kind person. Most of all she was MY sister and I love her.

The transplant was successful. After recuperating, Tanya returned home. It was still 137 steps from her front door to mine. How miraculous that Tanya's donor was so close.

It has been an honour and a privilege to be a stem cell donor for my beautiful sister. Not once did I think this journey that we took together would not have a positive outcome.

Now, seven years since the transplant, Tanya is living a healthy life. Every year, on her anniversary, we celebrate by doing something special together.

We now share an exceptional relationship. She is my sister and my friend. We can't verbalise the experience. 'Thank you' and 'you're welcome' are not enough.

There is an unspoken link between us that will remain in our hearts forever.