Yorkshire woman, 21, with leukaemia is now cancer free after bone marrow transplant from a stranger
Emily Land, 21, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia - cancer of the white blood cells - after she started finding bruises across her body. After seeing her GP, Emily was sent to St James' Hospital in Leeds, in October 2021, for a blood test and later that day was told she had leukaemia. After four rounds of chemotherapy, Emily was given the all-clear in July 2022 but just six weeks later she relapsed.
In August 2022, Emily was told her leukaemia had returned and she would have to have a bone marrow transplant. Emily was placed on the Anthony Nolan transplant register and three months later was told they found a match from a stranger in the Netherlands. Emily is now on the road to recovery and says she wouldn't have got through it without her mum, Kirstie, 53, by her side.
Emily, a student, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, said: "I was in shock when I was told I had cancer, I didn't realise what I was being told. It was a case of being shown a room and saying 'here is your room for the night you are staying in'. It was different for my mum, she knew the severity of the situation. I didn't take anything from that whole time.
"When I got told I had relapsed it was worse because I didn't know what to expect with the transplant. It didn't feel real at all. Now I am cancer-free, I am going to counselling to overcome what I have been through. There is a lot of trauma - this is something a lot of people my age haven't been through."
Speaking of her diagnosis, Emily said: "I went one morning for the blood test, came home and went about my day. Around 5pm I got a call from the hospital, telling me that I needed to go in for more blood tests. I didn't think anything of it but by the next day we knew I was diagnosed and in for a month."
Three days later, Emily underwent her first round of chemotherapy before she was given the all-clear in July 2022 - after a further three rounds. Six weeks later, Emily started noticing more bruising across her body and was told she had relapsed and would need a transplant.
Emily's mum, Kirstie Plenderleith, 53, a bank worker, from Leeds, said: "It was horrific, my whole world fell apart. We got a phone call one morning, the consultant phoned me and asked for Emily. They told me how cancer had come back, and I went upstairs to tell her. The medical team came around to the house to collect Emily and take her to the hospital. The second diagnosis was 100 times worse than the first one."
Emily started more chemotherapy in September 2022 - and was placed on the transplant register straight away.
She also caught pneumonia twice and developed sepsis three times Emily said: "There was a lot more to take in this time round. My younger sister, Millie Land, 19, got tested straight away to see if there was a match. There was a 25 per cent chance that she could be a match but unfortunately she wasn't. At that point, the search was on to find one."
Emily was waiting for a transplant for three months before her mum Kirstie got a call in November 2022, telling her that they had found a match in the Netherlands. In November 2022, Kirstie got the call to say that they had found a match in the Netherlands and that the transplant would take place in December 2022.
Kirstie said: "It was bizarre really. We knew that we needed a match, but we had no idea how Anthony Nolan worked or anything like that. We just thought that we would get people signed up ourselves. A lot of my friends took it upon themselves to go everywhere and get people signed up.
"We were at Leeds train station every Saturday getting people signed up, we went to Elland Road and stood outside colleges. We were just trying to get as many people as possible to sign up."
Anthony Nolan is the charity that makes lifesaving connections between people with blood cancer and incredible strangers ready to donate their stem cells. Emily went into the hospital on December 8 and received her transplant on December 16 and 17. The transplant took place over two days and involved a transfusion where her damaged blood cells were replaced with healthy ones.
Emily said: "The recovery was tough, that was the hardest thing. I had restarted the gym, I had been walking and for me to not even be able to have a shower or walk to the bathroom without being out of breath or needing help was frustrating. The doctors were telling me I would be really tired, and I wouldn't want to be doing anything, but I didn't expect it to be so bad.
"When I came home, I could hardly walk up the stairs. I think I have blocked out a lot of what happened, there is a lot of trauma there. I have made some amazing friends on the cancer ward and that is a blessing. Now I am cancer-free."
Emily said she would love to meet up with the woman who saved her life.
She said: "All we know about them is that they are a woman and they are 25 years old. I have to wait two years until we can meet her but I would be so open to meeting - it is amazing what she has done. I don't have the words to thank her."
Emily has regular check-ups, and blood tests and will need biopsies every three months for two years.
Her mum, Kristie, said: "It was the worst thing ever. I would swap places with her in a heartbeat. Nobody should see their child go through that. It had made our relationship closer, spending five weeks together in one room. What 21-year-old would want that? I don't think anybody should go through this alone.”