Friday 9 December 2016

'You have the potential to save my life' - Irish-Italian woman will die 'within weeks' if she doesn’t find a stem cell donor

Published 26/07/2016 | 13:46

Nicole (24) urgently needs a stem cell donor to save her life
Nicole (24) urgently needs a stem cell donor to save her life

An Irish- Italian woman critically ill with cancer is pleading with the public to help save her life as she urgently needs a stem cell donor.

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Nicole Di Pietro-Fisher (24) was diagnosed with leukaemia in January after first being diagnosed 14 years ago.

She urgently needs a stem cell donor to save her life but her mixed race is making it impossible to find a match.

Nicole currently lives in Sleaford in the UK but her family are from Ramelton in Co. Donegal.

“I had cancer when I was 10 but went into remission at 16. I was devastated when I found out the cancer was back again. I was just two years away from reaching the coveted ‘ten year remission’ milestone,” said Nicole.

Over Christmas, Nicole started coughing up blood and suffering from aching muscles and lethargy. Doctors thought it was just a blood clot, but tests revealed the cancer was back.

To make things worse, Nicole’s partner Jenny, who works in the RAF, had just been deployed on exercise over the Christmas period.

“I had to tell her the news over the phone. It was really hard to tell her I might be dying, knowing she was thousands of miles away but we were both determined to stay strong,” said Nicole.

Nicole started radiotherapy and chemotherapy straight away, keeping in touch with Jenny over the phone.

Nicole received the bad news that the cancer had spread to her brain and spinal cord and she desperately needed a stem cell donor.

“Doctors told me a stem cell transplant was my only chance of a cure. But because of my mixed-race heritage, the chances of finding a match were slim,” she said.

She contacted blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, which matches potential stem cell donors to blood cancer patients in desperate need of a transplant.

They searched the worldwide registers to find a match, but only 0.5pc of people on the Anthony Nolan register in the UK are from East Asian backgrounds and 1.5pc are from European backgrounds.

There is a 25pc to 30pc chance of having the same tissue type as a sibling. Sadly, Nicole’s brother is not a match.

Now, Nicole’s only hope of survival lies in the hands of strangers.

“Doctors think I need to find a donor urgently. Without a stem cell transplant, I will die. If anyone is reading this thinking about joining the register, please do it now. You have the potential to save my life. And even if you’re not a match for me, there are thousands of people waiting for life-saving donors.”

Nicole’s partner, Jenny urged people to help.

“Nicole’s time is running out. We really need people, especially those from mixed-race backgrounds to join the register before it’s too late.”

Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan said: “What many people don’t realise is how easy it is to join the Anthony Nolan register. It simply involves filling in a form and providing a saliva sample.

"If you’re one of the privileged few who goes on to donate, 90pc of the time this will now take place via an outpatient appointment which is similar to donating blood.”

People aged 16-30 can join the register online at www.anthonynolan.org

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