Helen Lewis, 49, breast cancer patient, and Ciara Lewis, 17, acute myeloid leukaemia patient
Helen: I had been in and out of hospital for a number of years;with cysts, but in November 2014, I noticed something was different with a particular lump. It turned out to be bilateral breast cancer.
Ciara: When Mum received the diagnosis, it was a shock to us all – you never think it’s going to happen to you.
Helen: I had surgery at my local hospital, and then I was transferred to The Royal Marsden for radiotherapy treatment. Thankfully, I went into remission in April 2015 – but the following April, our world was turned upside down once again.
Ciara: At the time, I was on the GB Rowing potential squad and had been feeling really tired. I just put it down to all the training I was doing. After a while, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have more energy – I thought I could be anaemic. But tests at my local hospital revealed I had acute myeloid leukaemia.
We couldn’t believe lightning had struck twice in our family, but we’re so proud of the strength that Ciara has shown
Helen:We couldn’t believe that lightning had struck twice in our family. But we are so proud of the strength and optimism that Ciara has shown since her diagnosis.
Ciara: I was transferred to The Royal Marsden in Sutton, where I had aggressive chemotherapy treatment, as well as a stem cell transplant. My 15-year-old brother was tested to see if he was a match, but sadly he wasn’t. I joined the UK stem cell register and, last October, a donor was found on the German register – all I know is he is a 30-year-old man.
Helen: The Royal Marsden saved me, and they’ve saved my wonderful daughter with this incredible transplant. They’re a truly unique group of people with the same mission: to support people diagnosed with cancer.
Ciara: I’ve been treated in The Royal Marsden’s Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) Unit, which is absolutely amazing. I’ve got to know the staff very well and they have been really lovely.
Helen: We want to help make a real difference to patients and families who will face similar challenges in the future. So we have both signed up for the 14-mile Marsden March.
Ciara: The March will certainly be a challenge, but I want to give something back – thanks to The Royal Marsden, I’m now on the long road to recovery.
Dr Mike Potter, Consultant Haematologist and Head of the Haemato-oncology Unit
“We don’t know the underlying cause of Ciara’s leukaemia, but we performed tests on the genetic profile of the cancer cells. Unfortunately, this showed that her leukaemia was a relatively aggressive subtype and would need intensive treatment.
“Ciara remains immensely positive and cheerful. She takes after her mum in being both extremely sporty and determined to beat her disease. I have no doubt that they’ll do their best to complete The Marsden March. To even attempt it will be an amazing achievement, as Ciara hasn’t fully recovered from the side effects of her transplant.
“It has been a privilege to be part of the team looking after Ciara. We wish them both the very best.”