Born again: tale of a blood cancer survivor


In September 2014, I was brought to the hospital with low blood levels. And shortly after several tests, I was diagnosed with blood cancer.

My mother was in tears. I just sat there quiet and said: “It’s okay, I’ll be ok.”

Three days later, I was admitted to the hospital, and the search for my perfect donor started. My body seemed to be empty. I couldn’t think or feel anything.

I felt like I was floating but simultaneously sinking to the floor. Lonely. It was like a dream.

Why doesn’t anybody wake me up? When will someone shake me and tell me it was just a nightmare?

The lonely abyss of a blood cancer patient. (Photo: public domain)
The lonely abyss of a blood cancer patient. (Photo: public domain)

I just waited. Hours. Days. Weeks. But nobody came. Till this, day it appears to be too unreal for me. I would have never thought it would happen to me.

It all started with two rounds of chemotherapy. Each round was like a surprise box with new side effects in different dimensions. By the second time around, I couldn’t recover from the so-called “low blood count point” for a week.

They feared that it could be a severe infection, and a bone marrow transplant was recommended. It was my last chance.

I was afraid of the transplant. But when I was told they had found my perfect donor, I felt so happy. I was relieved that there was still a door to freedom.

This blood cancer patient's donor match lit her last spark of hope. (Photo: public domain)
This blood cancer patient’s donor match lit her last spark of hope. (Photo: public domain)

All my cells were annihilated, my complete immune system was shut down. And now just my little helpers: the stem cells!

The doctor came to my room around 10 p.m. and showed me two bags. I was so excited.

So those are the ones – the heroes that will save my life. So small yet somehow magical…

They were off to duty alone inside my body to find their own way to my bones.

The transplant itself was unspectacular. It took several hours, and I sent my family and friends a text message:

2:46 a.m. Born again. The donor is a woman from West Germany. I’ve got a slight fever and I feel railroaded. But I’m o.k… my head spins a little.

Ten days post-transplant, I had so much pain in my bones that everything seemed to collapse. Those were the forerunners that everything had worked.

And after 14 days of isolation, I could be visited, and by the end of February, I was finally home.

Several months later, I finally had the courage to write to my donor. I didn’t know if she would answer me or even wanted to be contacted.

But I needed to thank her. And that was all that mattered; I couldn’t express how thankful I was. She was my hero without a name, my blood sister and guardian angel.

A few weeks later, I received her first letter. How did I react? I rejoiced, bouncing around the house with laughter and tears. She had given me the best gift that a person could give another. She had saved my life.

I love her so. Soon I’ll be able to meet her and that will be the best day of my life. I don’t know how I will react, but I know one thing: I’m going to give her a big hug!

By Alicia, 20, blood cancer survivor

(Translated from a testimonial to AIAS in German)

From Haena, AIAS Leipzig:

Every 35 seconds, someone somewhere in the world receives the shattering news that they’ve been diagnosed with blood cancer.

Many patients are children and young people, and for many the disease is fatal.

You can become a donor – and the hero to a blood cancer patient – by going directly to the DKMS (German blood marrow donor bank) webpage and registering.

Or check out the local Leipzig student association against blood cancer, AIAS Leipzig, for our next registration dates. We have been an active non-profit association of students in Leipzig since 2015. Our goal is to clarify, inform and change misconceptions about blood cancer and stem cell donation. We also register students on campus who are interested in becoming stem cell donors.

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