Sally and her Story

Cancer Survivor Sally To Send Letter Saying Thanks For Saving My Life


It is the letter she has been longing to send. After 12 years battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Sally Ketteringham-Wyre is able to thank the anonymous stem cell donor who helped to save her life.

“It has been written for some time now but I have been putting off posting it until I finally got the news I have waited so long to hear,” explained the 32-year-old school teacher.

And at her last review meeting with Consultant Haemato-Oncologist Dr Prem Mahendra, Sally was told that after seven years in remission she was now ‘considered cured’.

Sally, of Brierley Hill, Stourbridge, first noticed bruising on her arm while on holiday with her boyfriend Dave, but her attention was ‘elsewhere’ as Dave had proposed to her just days before.

In September of that year Sally started her first teaching job at Wordsley School near Stourbridge, but the bruising was still there so she decided to have it checked out.

A biopsy confirmed it was cancerous and Sally went to Birmingham’s BMI Priory Hospital where she had chemotherapy treatment every two weeks.

“It went really well and, on treatment weeks, I was able to work Monday and Tuesday, have treatment Wednesday, recover Thursday and be back in the classroom to teach my GCSE group on Friday afternoon,” said Sally. 

“I was loving my job, everyone at school, especially head Mike Lambert, was really supportive and I went into remission for a year - things seemed to be going perfectly.”

Extracts from Sally’s letter:

“Today I've just raised a glass and celebrated life and thanked you for you making it all possible.”

But then blood tests showed the cancer had returned.

It was decided that Sally needed an autologous stem cell transplant – where Sally’s own blood stem cells are used to help her recover her blood counts after high-dose chemotherapy -  and she was referred to Prem Mahendra at BMI Priory’s oncology centre.

More chemo was followed by the graft and then radiotherapy. Things were again going well. Sally went into remission and returned to work.

She and Dave bought a house and began to plan their wedding. But with the big day only weeks away Sally began to feel an aching in her lower back and a check-up confirmed the worst – the cancer had returned!

It was decided that her best hope was a blood stem cell transplant and the search for a possible donor began immediately.

“My priority was the wedding,” said Sally. “I just wanted to make sure everything went well. Prem and her team were brilliant, they kept my chemo dose low and managed my pain as much as possible.

“The day was superb, there were lots of smiles and a few tears but by the time I returned from honeymoon a donor had been found through the Antony Nolan Trust.”

Prem explained: “Sally was initially given high-dose chemotherapy to eradicate any residual lymphoma cells and also make space in their marrow for the new donor cells which are infused through a central line.

“Even though we say the donor is a match, only identical twins are an actual identical match.   Sally’s cells would see that the donor cells were different and try and mount a response – something called a graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).

“Although we want patients to have some GvHD, because it has an anti-tumour effect, too much can be life threatening so we use certain medicines to control the amount.

The chance of finding a donor for Sally was in the order of 60-70%.

“This type of transplant - a ‘reduced-intensity unrelated donor stem cell transplant’ - is a relatively new procedure.  Chances of a cure are about 30% and Sally’s risk of dying from the transplant was around 15-20%.

“But everything went very well and Sally remains in remission seven years later which means, I am happy to say,  that medically she is ‘considered cured’.

And Sally’s happy ending just gets happier!

Extracts from Sally’s letter:

“That future and my dreams are now a reality, my husband and I adopted a little baby boy and today we will celebrate 'life' as a family.” 

One year ago, after three attempts to start a family through IVF, Sally and Dave adopted a six month old baby boy they called Harry.

“Harry has completed us in every way we really are a proper family and so happy with our lives it is hard to put it into words,” said Sally.

“Dave is still my best friend, who has never faltered in his love and support of me. It was because of him I fought so hard to get better, it was Dave that really saved me.

“There have been some very dark times but we have pulled through it all thanks to the support of so many people – especially my mum. You don't deal with cancer alone, it affects your family more than you at times.

“We have everything to live for and we will never take our happiness for granted.”

Extracts from Sally’s letter:

“So thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, your selfless gift has meant everything to me and my family.”