Why 2018 is a special year for me

For me, 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of my bone marrow transplant. A transplant that I had, to treat aplastic anaemia, a rare life-threatening bone marrow failure disease that I contracted in 2007 at the age of 32 whilst pregnant. Believe me, at times back then, I never thought I would see my son’s second birthday let alone 10 years of birthdays! 

I was lurching from transfusion to transfusion, dependent on the generosity of people I would never meet who selflessly donated blood, so I could get the boost I needed to take the stairs upright instead of crawling up them on all fours, as I would invariably have to do as my blood counts dropped and energy escaped me.

How I got through it

It is fair to say that I would not be here without my little brother’s stem cell donation, the love of my family and the help and support that the Aplastic Anaemia Trust provide. The Trust is not only a crucial provider of information regarding this rare disease, where others struggle to inform, but also provides a wider support network that ended up being the understanding “shoulder to cry on” that I required in my hour of need. I will always be grateful to those people, fellow sufferers and their loved ones, who carried me through my treatment and beyond with notes of encouragement and a release for my fears and doubts.

There really is power in being supported by people who just understand.

The AAT’s work is lifesaving. In a world where money must be spent where it can have the most impact, understandably Aplastic Anaemia is the poor relation. The Aplastic Anaemia Trust is able to raise money for funding crucial research and specialist nursing care. To this day the nurse specialist remains my security blanket and is always there to reassure.

So, what does one do to celebrate this crucial milestone?

When you are given a second chance, after facing death in the face, you grab it by the horns. So, to make up for my inability 10 years ago to even walk the shortest of distances or even have the energy to stand at a cooker to prepare meals, I have shown Aplastic Anaemia, 10 years on, who is boss, by facing my toughest ever physical feats (my much younger self, that Susan, hated exercise!).

I decided to mark this year by taking part in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) (Spartan Sprint (5km), Spartan Super (10km), Spartan Beast (22km), Tough Mudder (10 miles) and a number of other races in between) and in the process have raised £1,000 for the AAT giving back only a fraction of what they have given me. Needless-to-say, it has been tough, especially during those glorious summer months when the heat was so unbearable that even running the shortest of distances seemed like utter absurdity.

I have not done these stupid feats alone, I continued to be supported and encouraged by the Aplastic Anaemia Trust community and I had a very dear friend, Joanna Barnwell, at my side who I will never be able to thank enough for allowing me to drag her around the OCR circuit because I couldn’t face it alone, and I must say we didn’t do too bad for two older ladies!

So, thank-you to my little brother for his gift of life, thank-you to my family, thank-you Jo for holding my hand this year and thank-you to my AAT family for helping me through. To those of you who are on the journey, hang in there.