Why I Fought For My Friend’s Right To Have A Second Stem Cell Transplant

“One voice alone can start a change. Many voices together can achieve what seems the impossible”

This saying has meant the world to me.

My friend Sasha was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2015. She was given treatment straight away – chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. It went well and Sasha was in remission.

Nearly one year on Sasha was given the devastating news that her leukaemia had returned.  Those around her supported her as much as we could and the process at this stage would normally be to have a top-up of stem cells from the original donor. But unfortunately for Sasha this was not possible as her donor had been taken off the list, so the only way to save her life was for her to have a second stem cell transplant.

This is the moment our world came crumbling down around us. Sasha was told that the government had made a decision to stop the NHS from funding second stem cell transplants for relapsed patients!

What did this mean? What was going to happen? How was Sasha going to get her treatment?

Sasha had a right to appeal as a case for special circumstance but unfortunately even with all her consultants backing her, the case was rejected. Sasha was going to have to fund it herself.

That’s when the journey of our campaign on Change.org started. After lots of fundraising by friends and family, I started a petition because we were still angry that the government could make such a decision, which would affect so many people. Especially at a time in their lives when they would be so vulnerable, it just wasn’t fair!

I went in not entirely knowing what I was doing and certainly not knowing how big a part of my life it would become, but the campaign went from strength to strength with over 160,000 people signing for Sasha.  I couldn’t believe how many people out there were willing to sign and support  someone they had never even met.

We were collecting signatures to take to Parliament in hope that they would change their decision. People were standing up and taking action. At every hurdle, strangers supporting our petition would send messages of encouragement to keep us strong. They donated to Sasha’s GoFundMe page in their thousands. To witness, how many people wanted to help make a change for others who so desperately needed it, opened my eyes and filled my heart. It was people power at its best.

We started our petition in November 2016, the journey was not that long but it was tough. Fighting cancer and caring for your kids are a lot for anyone to deal with, but in the midst of that Sasha was also campaigning for her life. ITV News London had Sasha on for a short interview, we were doing everything we could to share the petition and it was growing with a force.. People were sharing and signing and messaging us. I made sure that I read every single comment and it made me cry with pride that so many people were so passionate and backing us. A miracle happened at this point, with the help of our wonderful supporters we managed to raise enough money for Sasha to start her process of her second transplant, we then managed to get the issue debated in parliament with the amazing help of cancer charity Anthony Nolan.

On the 24th February 2017 we had the fantastic news that the government had changed their decision, all patients that needed a second stem cell transplant after relapsing with leukaemia would have the funding from the NHS, we had saved thousands of people’s lives! We had finally done it!

Since that wonderful day we have been contacted by people that have gone on to have second stem cell transplants and it has been heartwarming when they have messaged us thanking us for our fight. But the real hero of this story isn’t me, it’s all the lovely people, we’ve never even met, who took the time to sign our petition. They have saved the lives of many, if it wasn’t for them our petition would not have got anywhere.

So, when I think of the word kindness, I think of the power of people taking action and standing up for something they feel is right, standing together as one.

Having the kindness in your heart to help others in need is priceless, I have seen it with my own eyes and I cannot explain how much my heart has burst with pride.