I have drums to beat since Juliette died – charities we’ve raised money for, and other work I’ve done with bereaved parents I won’t talk about here – it might sound odd, but I needed it to help me survive.

About a year ago, the charity Anthony Nolan put me in touch with an amazing lady called Shaheena.  As a baby of six months Shaheena’s niece, Alishba, was diagnosed with a condition that would have killed her without a bone marrow transplant.  None of the little girl’s family members was a match, so Shaheena campaigned in their community and across the internet to recruit new donors. Very few came forward and in the end, with her condition dangerously advanced, Alishba was 90% matched with a cord blood donor in New York.  Her stem cell transplant happened, and Alishba turned four in November.  She’s totally beautiful.

I often think about Katie, the friend Juliette made in hospital who was diagnosed with leukaemia three weeks after she had been.  As four-year-olds they sat next to each other in bed, little bald heads bowed together as they made “sticky” pictures with glue and sequins.  Over the months they chatted on the phone about their blood counts and chemo regimes – comic, and yet horrific.  Katie has in the past few months been signed off her annual checks; a tall teenager of thirteen, declared cured.  I don’t know this from Katie’s Mum – I think she found it too hard to keep in touch with me, and I honestly don’t blame her.  I’ve been at the sharp end of the struggle too, and to stay positive is essential.  Me and my daughter are ghouls in the corner of her eye.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t ever thought, “why Juliette, and not Katie?” but where life is, you have to be glad.  I don’t know why or how, but Katie survived and so has Alishba. I wanted to write an article about Shaheena and Alishba, and what more can be done to collect and store life-saving umbilical cord blood in the UK.  It’s finally being printed this Saturday in the Times and somewhere, I think Juliette’s cheering.

6 thoughts on “Survivors

  1. How unselfish of you Geves. I like the thought of Juliette cheering.It's hard to see the childre who survived when yours didn't isn't it. I also find myself looking at other lads of the same age and wondering 'why is he alive and not my Al?' I know it's just the way it is and it's not as if I wish other children dead. It's just that I wish mine alive.I rarely buy newspapers – I tend to look at them online – but I'll pop out and get a copy on Saturday.

  2. Fabulous – will definitely have a look on Saturday. I echo Beverley's sentiments – it seems brave and generous to me too.Catherine's best friend has chicken pox at the moment, and I literally can't cope with it – even though I know it will harder than normal for her and her family – she is very, very unlikely to die, and I can't bear to reassure her she will get better (as she will) when I said that before to C. xx

  3. That's a wonderful thing, Geves. Please send me a link to the article, or bring it so I can copy it? Would love to see it and didn't see this till today (Sunday).You are a true inspiration. xxx

  4. Thank you Petra and Tricia. The Times has a pay wall now, annoyingly, but I've kept the article and can show you both.. Nor is it quite article I wrote, but if it raises awareness that doesn't matter. x

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