Since my diagnosis I have kept practising yoga and this has really helped me both physically and mentally. Something that my teacher and good friend Wolfie said has really resonated with me: to consider life as made up of a series of experiences; and that this diagnosis is just another experience. I have taken this thought to heart and it has helped me view things in a positive light. Everyone can learn from experiences, and since my diagnosis I have had many new ones and I’ve learnt a lot from them.
This is my first experience of being hospitalised. I can’t express how in awe I am of the quality of care I’ve had in the NHS system. All the nurses, doctors and support staff who I’ve encountered have been so wonderful, and I really do feel I am in the best hands. I must admit that I cannot offer an opinion on hospital food as I’ve been very spoilt and had my Mum’s delicious home cooked food brought in daily. Nevertheless I am a big fan of the high calorie jelly that is on offer!
That’s definitely been a new experience! I felt for the first time, fatigue to an extent where on some days all I could do was lie in bed and let the drugs do their thing. Luckily I have not had bad side effects such as nausea and vomiting and have had a relatively smooth ride so far. Inevitably my hair has fallen out; and before the momentous day when I shaved it all off, I experienced having dreads! Somehow some stubborn live hair refused to fall out and the dead hair got enmeshed resulting in locks a Rasta would be proud of! I did enjoy that look for a while but then decided it was a lot lower maintenance to go shaven and have opted for sporting different coloured turbans since.
Apart from the physical effects on my body, my diagnosis has had a psychological impact. This impact I can only describe, however, as positive and this is thanks to the support of my family. The strength of my family – my parents, my brother, aunts, uncles and cousins - has given me an amazing insight: how a negative situation can be turned into a positive one if the will is there. The idea for a campaign was hatched over a meal (without my knowledge!) and a family friend shot the appeal. Not in our wildest dreams did we think that it would grow so quickly, spread so wide and go global. Their talents, determination and joint efforts have been so inspiring, not only to me but to so many people who have backed the campaign.
"A rare lighthearted moment during filming of Thai Appeal."
I’ve experienced my friends’ unwavering support. I am so fortunate to have the best friends, boyfriend and support network around me. A constant stream of visitors have kept me occupied and I confess to not having progressed much with my reading list as a result! Moreover, they have been incredible in spreading the Match4Lara campaign far and wide. It’s thanks to their talent, ideas and energy that the message has spread so quickly. The ‘Digital Action day’ where 30 of my friends got together for a whole Sunday to strategise and develop a plan of action is just one example of their dedication. Thank you to everyone who has visited, tweeted, volunteered, or sent their well-wishes, I really appreciate it.
I think the most special thing I have experienced is the connections I’ve made with total strangers who have reached out to me. I’ve had messages from people wishing me luck, other halfies, and several Thai-Italians (who knew we were so many!), from all over the world. Equally, an incredible number of people have sprung into action to back the campaign: old childhood friends, my Dad’s previous students, my Mum’s old colleagues, my brother’s mates and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends! It is incredibly touching seeing the selflessness and generosity of people who have responded – like Jed another Thai-Italian living in Chiang Mai who rode an 8 hour bus ride to Bangkok to donate at the Thai Red Cross! This is what humanity is: connecting with others regardless of their background, situation or nationality but purely because we recognise that we are all human.
Finally I have learnt an enormous amount about the importance of having more people on the donor registries and the need to diversify it. Only 3% of registered donors are mixed race, and people of
Black , Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds only have a 20% chance of finding their match, compared to 60% for White Caucasians. The disparity is huge, and this needs to change so that everyone has an equal chance of having a life-saving transplant. Equally important is to raise awareness about how easy it is to sign up and to dispel the myth that donating is scary or painful. As a donor, what else could be more special than giving someone a second chance at life?
Everyone has said they’ve been sending me their best wishes and positive vibes and I genuinely feel it; despite the chemotherapy I feel stronger each day, and this positivity has helped to keep my spirits up!
Let’s stay positive and let’s keep diversifying the donor registries together!