Morecambe woman appeals for donor who could save her life

Elspeth Roberts. Photo by Neil Cross.
Elspeth Roberts. Photo by Neil Cross.
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It was a huge shock for Elspeth Roberts when she was told her leukaemia had returned.

Elspeth, 35, had successful treatment for the blood cancer last year and was told afterwards that there was only a three per cent chance of it coming back.

She was in remission after five months of chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), an aggressive form of the cancer, and was getting her life back to normal.

But now after the cancer returned, Elspeth has been told she needs more intense chemotherapy and a stem cell bone marrow transplant.

She began treatment last week and will undergo two five-day courses of chemo – but needs a stem cell donor and is appealing for people to sign up to the register.

“She was doing brilliantly so it was a big shock,” said Elspeth’s partner Jo.

“She felt so well. We’d been for a walk the week before (the diagnosis) and I got tired before she did.

“But she is pretty resourceful and she has a good network of friends and family around her.

“And she’s still the positive person that she always is. I don’t think anybody or anything will change that.”

Elspeth, known to friends and family as Elle, was told after being diagnosed the first time that she had a rare chromosome – Inversion T16 – which meant she didn’t need a bone marrow transplant.

She also fought off an infection which at one point, left her one degree away from a coma and with her life hanging in the balance.

AML affects the myeloid cells which perform a number of different functions, such as fighting bacterial infections, defending the body against parasites and preventing the spread of tissue damage.

Doctors told her that the AML has been caught early this time around, giving her a good chance of beating it again, but she needs a nine or 10 out of 10 match for the transplant.

“She will have another round of treatment in a couple of weeks then hopefully we will be able to find a donor,” said Jo. “Then she will go into the specialist centre for bone marrow transplants in Manchester.”

Jo said they want to raise awareness that being a donor can be a simple process.

“If you go on the register you won’t necessarily need to do anything immediately, it’s only when you are a match for somebody who needs the cells.

“Donating stem cells can be just a couple of hours out of your life. It’s not a horrible thing to do at all. It’s a cure for lots of people like Elle. The more people who register the more chance they have of finding a match.”

Elspeth’s business, Wise Up, runs drama and art sessions in the Morecambe and Lancaster area.

They encourage people of all ages, including children and those from poorer backgrounds, to gain greater self-confidence and lead positive and fulfilling lives.

She thanked her team who will continue to run Wise Up while she has the treatment.

To become a stem cell donor you must be aged 40 or under.

Nine out of 10 people donate their stem cells via the bloodstream, in a straightforward process called peripheral blood stem cell collection.

One in 10 donors will have their stem cells collected via the bone marrow itself, while under general anaesthetic.

To sign up to the stem cell register or for more information go to www.anthonynolan.org.