My name is Anika and I’m 22 years old. My cancer journey started 16 years ago at a young age of 5 when my father was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Then in 2016 during my pregnancy with my son, I fell over onto my stomach at work and was rushed to hospital to check that my son was okay.
That afternoon I was diagnosed with the exact same blood cancer that my father had all those years ago. My son was born at 29 weeks gestation via c-section and I began treatment 2 weeks after he came home.
I had 3 rounds of chemotherapy, intense total body irradiation and a stem cell transplant from a non-related donor, who happened to be my perfect match! I am forever grateful for my donor because they gave me the chance of a new life with endless possibilities and, most importantly, they gave my son his mother who despite all odds is now healthy.
Matching for my donor didn’t come easy, due to our family history of blood cancer we were advised not to use any of my siblings for the donor stem cells. This is when the search in the national and international registry was looked at.
At first they couldn’t find anyone who matched but months after my son was born and I was having treatment we got the good news, they had me a donor! Turns out he was my perfect match of 99%. Only difference is, they were the opposite sex. In the background of the search, 3 genetics teams across Australia tested DNA taken from myself and my father in hopes to find any type of ‘gene’ that may have caused 4 people in our family to fall ill with the same blood cancer. This process was long and unfortunately unsuccessful. They found nothing and we continue to live in limbo without the knowledge of our family genetics. I’m always fearing this is going to affect my son.
During my treatment I have learnt a great deal about blood, stem cells and how the human body works. I learnt that when a mother gives birth the body changes completely to cater for the new baby that’s just been born, and I learnt about blood and how cancer affects the cells and bone marrow. Unfortunately I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting or having contact with my donor yet, but if I ever was given that opportunity I would love to thank them for putting in the hard yards for producing an amazing collection of stem cells that helped save my life. I want them to understand how much they mean to me. Now I have a part of them and I want to give them my deepest gratitude for giving me the life I wanted with my son.
In light of awareness, I want to share how important it is to be an organ donor and how important it is to talk about it with friends and family. One day you might give light and change the lives of a recipient and their family, or to a young mother who’s battling cancer, just like I was.
My son and I. He was 18 months here.