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Belfast woman describes stem cell transplant journey

Belfast woman Eimear Smyth is coping with cancer of the blood for the third time. Credit: UTV

A young west Belfast woman, who is dealing with cancer of the blood for the third time, has described her near-death experience during a stem cell transplant.

Eimear Smyth and her family previously spoke to UTV about coping with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when the 24-year-old was desperate to find a donor.

Now, despite a roller coaster of complications, she has returned home in time for Christmas and has been told by a team of medics in Dublin that her treatment was a success.

The former dancer and make-up artist received the stem cell donation - from someone she has never met - at the start of November.

“It was weird watching the stem cells travel through the tube into my body,” Eimear said.

“To think it was someone else’s body going into me. The person that’s done that doesn’t know that’s happening at that moment in time - that person could be anywhere in the world.

“It's someone else’s immune system and it’s working wonders.”

Every day is a new day and I just take it one day at the time at the minute - you just really appreciate life.

– Eimear Smyth

But, in preparation for the transplant, Eimear had to undergo intensive chemotherapy with all its associated pain and sickness.

“It was a traumatic experience, very, very difficult,” she said.

“A lot of it I thought I would struggle with mentally, but I didn’t because I was just so sick.”

Eimear also suffered a host of complications, including a very rare allergic reaction to some of her medication, just as she was feeling better.

That led to multiple seizures and a near-death experience.

Eimear explained: '”My fiancé Philip and my mum were put into a room and all they heard was: ‘Emergency to resus one’ - which was where I was.

“And they were left there for an hour-and-a-half and told I’d possibly taken a bleed to the brain, an aneurysm. And they thought they'd lost me.

“It was petrifying for them.”

Despite all of that - and much earlier than expected - doctors are extremely positive about Eimear’s prognosis.

“For them to be so positive, so optimistic, it’s just taken me aback and it will take it a while to adjust,” Eimear admitted.

“Especially at this time of year, to be around family is amazing, and I’m just appreciating every day as it is.”