A young Belfast woman with cancer desperately needs to find a stem cell donor after suffering a second relapse – and finding out neither of her siblings is a match.
Eimear Smyth and her family are now urging people to come forward, in the hope that they could help provide life-saving treatment.
“For the first time ever with my children, there’s something I can’t fix and I can’t be their hero,” her dad Sean said.
“I need someone out there to save my daughter’s life.”
Eimear is just 24. She dreams of becoming a dance teacher and his planning to marry her fiancée Philip next year.
But she has had to cope with a diagnosis she still cannot quite believe and gruelling treatment, including intensive chemotherapy.
Eimear has had Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the blood, for two years.
She had been studying in Leeds when doctors there originally dismissed her symptoms as tonsillitis and later glandular fever.
As well as chemo, she has had to undergo a transplant of her own stem cell – a process which included weeks of isolation, at Christmas of all times.
“It was the hardest experience of my life, the hardest,” Eimear said.
“Being locked in such a small room, being claustrophobic, it being Christmas, thinking of everything you’re missing out on …
“But you’re saying to yourself you’re doing it for the future and you’re doing it for the better.”
And a second relapse means the need to find a stem cell match is increasingly urgent.
Young men between the ages of 16 and 34 are particularly under-represented on the stem cell register, so it is hoped that encouraging people to sign up could uncover a match for Eimear.
Up to 75% of those in need of stem cells donations cannot find a match among siblings.
There is a global network of international registries which collectively have over 28 million potential stem cell donors.
However, every year, more than 400 patients across the UK miss out on potentially life-saving treatment because they cannot find a suitable donor – making it crucial that more people sign up.
In the meantime, precious moments with her family and planning for her wedding are keeping Eimear going in her battle against cancer.
For help & support and to find out how to become a stem cell donor and what it involves:
- WATCH: Amy Bartlett from the charity Anthony Nolan on stem cell donation