Hey Cancer...you picked the wrong mother!
- Sarah (Aged 37, London) Teddys Mum
Teddy's battle with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
At 7:30 am on Wednesday 29th March 2022, we had received 3 missed calls from an unknown number. A voicemail from the Doctor we had seen just the day before. His words are imprinted in my memory forever "You need to go to A&E right now we need to rule out leukaemia."
After a 3-day inpatient stay the diagnosis was confirmed as Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a rare and deadly leukaemia. Later through a bone marrow biopsy it was confirmed that Teddy who was only 18 months old would need a bone marrow transplant. He had 3% disease in the blood and 60% in the marrow. I think my mothers instinct helped get him diagnosed early before the disease had chance to increase. Devastatingly due to the cancers genetic make up he was only given a 13% prognosis of event-free survival.
Every year some 600 children will be diagnosed with leukaemia and it is the most common childhood cancer.
The story was also too close to home for me having lost my cousin Michael to ALL leukaemia over 20 years ago. He never made it to transplant.
Teddy flew through his initial rounds of chemotherapy treatment and we naively held onto hope that his non-identical twin brother would be a genetic match for him for transplant. When he wasn't our world fell apart. It was then we realised we were at the mercy of a complete stranger to help save our son. We later discovered that less than 25% of full siblings are a genetic match and parents cannot be due to the combination of DNA at conception. Therefore donated stem cells from a matched unrelated donor or a donated umbilical cord were his best option.
As part of the consent proceds all parents must sign a consent form acknowledging the 10% risk of losing their child during transplant. These odds seem terrifyingly high but we had no choice but to accept the risks to try and save Ted's life.
When discussing potential matches we discovered that people of Caucasian European heritage have a higher probability of finding a genetic match versus those of a mixed heritage or Black and minority ethnic groups. This needs to change and charities like DKMS are paving the way to educate and get a diverse mix of people of all ethnicities on the register. Luckily for us, a stem cell donor from Spain provided that perfect match for Teddy.
I made a promise to myself a short while ago that if Teddy came through this I would find a way to pay back that debt. He is now 1 year post transplant, healthy, thriving, in remission, and back at nursery being a normal toddler. As well as driving his mummy up the wall alongside his twin brother George!
We have learned so much on our journey that we want to share with the world to encourage you and others like you to register as potential life saving donors.
Did you know 90% of donors are able to donate in an afternoon, similar to how you give blood?
That you could be back on your feet and back at work on playing sports all whilst your magic cells (which replenish in your body very quickly) make their way to their final home and provide another person or child another chance at life and time with their families?
I want to take this opportunity to thank my girl gang of mothers who are joining me in this mission. Without you, this campaign would not be possible! I'm so proud of the support system we have been able to be to each other.
Many of these mothers are only just out of treatment and instead of retreating from the world and doing their own healing they are joining forces to help children like theirs find a perfect match. That's the heart of Swab to save a child. Mothers and parents of sick kids who's lives have been saved by that very action.
For more information about what it means to be a donor from some who has donated please check out Michaels's story on our website.
We would love it if you would consider registering to be someone's life-saving match by visiting the 'Find Event Near Me' page from our homepage and coming down to swab to save a child.