Back from the brink of death

A woman back from the brink of death will celebrate her 45th birthday tomorrow - a day she thought she might never see.

Two years ago Rebecca Shepheard of Great Ashby was told by doctors she was dying from a rare blood cancer, after tests for what she thought was fatigue.

She said: “We moved to Stevenage in June 2009 and I was a bit knackered. I thought it was the move and everything and I was working in a high pressure job in London. Then I started not being able to make it up the stairs at Stevenage station.”

“I went for tests and the following morning I was in London when they said ‘you need to come in – there’s something really wrong with your blood. We need you to go to the Lister’. I said I have medical cover and could get to a private hospital, but they said: ‘No, we are waiting for you now’.”

Rebecca was kept at Lister Hospital for five weeks. And then went for further treatment in Cambridge. She was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome – a disease more commonly found in men over 70 that can quickly progress to leukaemia.

She said: “They told me I was checking out basically. They said I needed a bone marrow transplant.”

A transplant took place in August 2009, requiring six weeks in isolation because Rebecca lacked an immune system, but the new cells were rejected by her body.

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A second successful transplant took place in October of that year. Almost two years later Rebecca finally got the news she and her partner Neil had longed for.

“Four weeks ago the consultant told me that the disease has gone. I’m still on masses of drugs. But nowhere near as many – at one point I was taking around 150 tablets.”

She said she is now back doing one of her favourite things – playing hockey, although she admitted to “just waving a stick around at the back”, and has set up her own recruitment consultation business after having to give up work in London.

She is also doing work for the Anthony Nolan Trust and called on everyone to donate to help cure diseases like hers.

“Normally you don’t think to save someone’s life when you are alive – it is a donation when you have died. But a person in the street can save somebody’s life. All that are needed are the stem cells. It’s a bit like giving blood. I would be dead without it - you really can save someone’s life.”

To find out how to help, go to