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Blood cancer survivor Marcus Williams, a business development manager at Wood, tells how a stem cell transplant saved his life

In April 2014 my world was turned upside down and I was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). Prior to my diagnosis I had been fit and healthy, regularly attending the Alive and Well gym and having recently completed my first 10k.

ALCL is a rare and aggressive blood cancer that effects around 45 people in the UK each year. The prognosis wasn’t overwhelmingly positive.

The following month I was transferred to The Christie in Manchester with a view to participating in a clinical trial. However, the disease was too aggressive and chemotherapy was started immediately. By the end of June, I had failed two lines of chemotherapy and I was given six to 12 weeks to live through palliative care. My last line of hope was a third line targeted rescue therapy, from a drug on clinical trial. My predicament was so desperate that my consultants took me ‘off-licence’, which meant I could be given drugs not officially approved for use in the UK.

By September the disease had stabilised and I was able to undergo a course of radiotherapy.

Following radiotherapy, I was considered stable enough to be eligible for a stem cell transplant. I was admitted to The Christie in early November for one week’s conditioning. A week later my allogeneic (donor) transplant was administered and I was kept in isolation for 28 days.

Fortunately, I got my wish and I was home for Christmas. Then came a very big crash…
In January 2015 I developed graft versus host disease (GvHD) of the skin and gastrointestinal system. I lost approximately one third of my body weight in a matter of weeks. Statistically, one in three patients don’t complete the transplant process came and I was not expected to see my birthday in early March.

After a long and difficult recovery, I returned to work in February 2017. An absence of almost three years. A lot had changed. I had changed.

Since then, my immune system has fully recovered, my hospital visits have become less frequent, my medication has reduced, and my health and fitness has improved significantly. I am back in the gym and life is getting back on track.

Interestingly, my sibling wasn’t a match. Only one in four are. My donor was a 23-year-old German male.

Today, I am committed to raising awareness in support of the life changing work the Anthony Nolan Trust undertake. Together we can best utilise the diversity of Birchwood Park as an overwhelming cause for good, to give something back, to help rewrite somebody else’s life story.

One final thought… we are more… “It’s not who you are or what you say, but what you do that defines you.” Please consider how amazing it would feel to save someone’s life, to give them a second chance.

The Centre, Birchwood Park will be hosting an Anthony Nolan recruitment event on Friday 7th December 2018, between 11:00 and 14:00. I will be delighted to meet you and answer and questions you may have.

For more information, please click here.