Match4Lara: 'Every patient deserves a chance to have this life saving procedure.'
PUBLISHED: 11:06 05 July 2016 | UPDATED: 11:06 05 July 2016
Six months after the Match4Lara campaign went viral around the world, Lara marks 100 days since her life-saving transplant and vows to help others suffering with blood cancer.
After a worldwide campaign, Belsize Park student, Lara Casalotti, beat the odds - one in 25 million to be exact - and received the crucial bone marrow transplant she needed.
As she marks 100 days since the procedure, Lara has reflected on the past six months; the fear, relief and her commitment to the charities that helped save her life.
Lara was diagnosed with the illness in December, aged just 24. Due to her mixed race heritage had a slim chance of finding a match.
In March, a German donor was finally found and Lara had the transplant.
She has described, in a blog, the elation she felt at hearing the news, but added: “I also knew how hard the next steps were going to be. It was daunting to read, in the patient handbooks, about the potential risks and side effects of a transplant. They are meant to give reassurance, but I just felt fear.
“What was hardest to accept is that my fertility has been damaged by the treatment and I won’t be able to have children. Knowing that I have been robbed of something that I had always looked forward to, was difficult to come to terms with.”
Prior to the procedure, Lara underwent nine days of chemotherapy to destroy her immune system and prevent her body rejecting the bone marrow, which was then given to her via a drip.
She does not know who donated bone marrow as they remain anonymous for the first two years after the transplant.
“I know they came from a lady living in Germany,” Lara said. “In her honour and to make the cells feel welcomed, I listened to Beethoven and ate German chocolate during the infusion!
“It’s been a little over 100 days since I was hooked up to that drip. Over the past 100 days, many things have happened. I was very fortunate to not experience too many of the side effects that I had read about and, before long, the new cells had engrafted and I was discharged from hospital!
“It hasn’t all been plain sailing since the transplant - I have had a few infections, one of which put me back in hospital. Back on the drip, I had to keep telling myself to be patient and to take things slowly.
“I am immensely grateful to all the doctors and nurses for the amazing care I have had, and of course to my donor who I hope to thank in person one day! I am also grateful to each and every person who was involved in Match4Lara. I think about the campaign each time I go for a check up and see the new faces at the Macmillan Cancer Centre: other young people who have recently received the life changing news that they have cancer.”
A keen campaigner and activist, Lara is committed to supporting blood cancer charities Anthony Nolan and DKMS to help the 37,000 people awaiting a stem cell transplant worldwide.
“Not many people can say they have two birthdays. On March 10 2016, I celebrated my ‘second birthday’ when I received the life-saving stem cell donation,” she said.
“Every patient deserves a chance to have this life saving procedure. Every patient with a blood disorder deserves a second birthday.”
For more information about joining the bone marrow register, visit www.anthonynolan.org.