Brave smile of Heysham girl whose family could all get leukaemia

Photo: David Hurst 15 year old Rachel Simpson of  Heysham, who is suffering from a rare genetic condition which could lead to leukemia is having a wig made of her own hair during chemotherapy. She is pictured with mum, Donna Simpson
Photo: David Hurst 15 year old Rachel Simpson of Heysham, who is suffering from a rare genetic condition which could lead to leukemia is having a wig made of her own hair during chemotherapy. She is pictured with mum, Donna Simpson
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A Heysham teenager is smiling through the pain as her family faces a nervous wait to see if they have a rare life-threatening condition.

Rachel Simpson, 15, has already been diagnosed with a mutated GATA2 gene and will need a bone marrow transplant to save her life.

Meanwhile Rachel’s parents Derek and Donna, and 17-year-old brother Steven are awaiting the results of tests to see if they too have the mutated gene.

If untreated, the mutated gene will lead to leukaemia, a form of blood cancer which can kill.

Brave Rachel also faces losing her beautiful long red hair through chemotherapy.

But the Heysham High School pupil has met the devastating news with courage and matter-of-fact bluntness.

“She says: ‘If I have a transplant I will lose my hair, but if I don’t have a transplant, I will die,’” said Rachel’s mum Donna.

“The doctor asks her if she’s upset. She always says no. It’s just her way of dealing with it.”

Rachel said: “I wasn’t bothered. It has to happen to somebody. It’s only hair.”

Donna, her husband Derek and son Steven, 17, are awaiting the results of tests to see if they too have the hereditary condition, which attacks the immune system and causes infections.

“For the last two or three years Rachel has been in and out of Lancaster Royal Infirmary all the time,” said Donna.

“She’s had pneumonia and cellulitis. Her arms, legs and face swell up.

“She was sent to hospital in Manchester and the doctor there knew what it was straight away.

“It’s devastating. It doesn’t matter how old she is, she’s still my baby.

“We take each day as it comes. At the moment she hasn’t got leukaemia and so if she’s well enough, she goes to school. She’s determined to carry on. She’s been amazing about it.

“Myself, my husband and son have all been tested and we are waiting to find out if we have it as well.

“It could have come from either side of the family or it’s started off with us and Rachel has been unfortunate.

“God willing I want my son to be OK.

“We’ve already been told he’s not a (bone marrow) match so Rachel will need to go on the bone marrow register.

“We can see on the list there are potential matches and they have time to find a perfect match. She will then have to go into isolation for a week, having chemotherapy. Then after a week she will get stem cells replaced and then it takes anywhere between 15 and 30 days for them to start making an immune system.”

In the meantime animal lover Rachel, who wants to become a vet when she is older, is determined to live a normal life.

So the family is trying to raise money to buy a wig made of Rachel and Donna’s own hair, which could cost a few thousand pounds.

“It’s probably just a ‘mum thing’ but I want her to feel as much like herself as possible,” said Donna.

The family has set up a donations web page and will hold a fundraising event at Heysham High School on May 10.

They are looking to raise £5,000 in total with a campaign called Rachel’s Recovery.

Anyone who would like to donate raffle prizes or auction lots for the event can get in touch with Donna through the ‘Rachel’s Recovery’ Facebook page.

To donate go to HERE