Cardiff finalist has two months to find donor to save her life
If she hadn’t gone to the doctors she would’ve died within a few days
Vithiya Alphons, a final year Cardiff University student has been told she has just two months to find a stem cell donor to save her life since being diagnosed with cancer in October 2015.
The 24-year old from Walthamstow had just started back at university studying Optometry, with a graduate job at Specsavers lined up, when she was told she had an aggressive form of leukaemia. Shortly after moving into her new room in Cardiff she came down with a fever, severe sickness and a pain in her leg. As a result she saw her GP for a blood test and was informed that she had cancer of the blood, Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
She was immediately put onto chemotherapy and her parents and brother Clime, 22, travelled to Cardiff to be with her.
Vithiya explained: “From the first symptom to being diagnosed, it was only five days. I’d been absolutely fine before that. My whole life changed in under a week. I’m blessed to love what I do, so I was desperate to get back to my studies. I asked if I could go back to uni, and I remember the doctors looking at me and saying no way.
“They explained, ‘If you’d left it a few more days, your parents would have been organising your funeral this week. It was a shock. I just thought, ‘thank god I’m still alive.’”
The four weeks following her diagnosis, Vithiya suffered the side affects of the chemotherapy which meant she was vomiting six or seven times a day. When she was well enough to travel, she was transferred back to London to be treated at University College Hospital.
Further testing showed that the leukaemia was still present in her blood and it is inevitable that she will relapse in under a year unless she has a stem cell transplant within two months. Unfortunately her brother Clime is only a 50 per cent match for Vithiya.
Anthony Nolan, a blood cancer charity is now searching the world’s donor registers for someone whose tissue type matches Vithiya’s. However, the search is more complex as a result of her Sri Lankan background.
She added: “I knew it was going to be difficult because there aren’t many people from South Asian backgrounds who are signed up as donors. It’s frustrating but I don’t think it’s about Asian people not wanting to sign up. They just don’t know what it is – they think it’s taking something from your bone. We have to raise awareness.”
Vithiya’s family and friends have launched social media appeals to raise awareness and recruit stem cell donors.
She said: “I’ve been blown away by the support. I’ve had thousands of messages from people I don’t even know, saying they’ve signed up and are spreading the word. Even if it doesn’t help me, it could help someone else.”
If you are aged between 16-30, sign up to the donor list here.