I Recieved Blood I Received Blood
Michelle's Story
Michelle’s energy, positivity and big smile are infectious. You can’t help but feel invigorated and look at life with a new perspective after talking to her. “I grew up on a honey farm,” Michelle says, “I’ve always been very much into nature, nutrition and health.” Her love of the outdoors comes through in her sunny spirit.
In August 2011 Michelle was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma, the most advanced stage of this cancer which affects part of the immune system. Michelle had been suffering from various symptoms including fatigue and troubled breathing for over six months. With two beautiful daughters, who were just one and three years old, she had pushed through her exhaustion thinking it was a phase that would pass, until a worried friend ordered her to see a doctor.
Diagnosis, however, wasn’t straightforward and Michelle saw a number of health professionals before a fifteen centimetre tumour in her chest was found and she was admitted to hospital to start chemotherapy straightaway. Showing that positive spirit, Michelle says that her support network was incredible. Family, friends, neighbours, and organisations like Parent Aid and Hospice West Auckland helped her through.
When you see her big smile, it’s hard to get your head around what Michelle has been through in the last five years. Cancer. 35 nights in isolation. Unsuccessful chemotherapy. Further chemotherapy. A stem cell transplant. Cardiac arrest and resuscitation. A stroke in which she lost her speech. Losing friends to cancer and watching other friends struggle.
Discovering that it took 80 donations of blood to save her life, Michelle was visibly moved. “It makes me want to cry,” she says. “I’m eternally grateful. I wouldn’t be here without those blood donors. There are no words to express my gratitude.”
Three years into remission, Michelle has battled cancer and is now showing that fighting spirit again by encouraging more people to give blood. She uses her Facebook page to promote awareness and has encouraged her colleagues to donate 77 units of blood to date. She understands that family and colleagues don’t always know what to do when someone they know is diagnosed with cancer, but says that the best response is “to bring organic fruit and vegetables, and to donate blood”.
Michelle finds it ironic now that she never gave blood herself before getting ill. She laughs as she remembers “I had a phobia of needles!” These days her arm still hurts from the invasive injections she had during treatment. “My pain doesn’t go away. The little needle used to give blood is really no comparison to what a cancer patient goes through for days or weeks at a time.” What would she say to someone who doesn’t give blood because they are scared of needles? “If you’ve got healthy veins, it’s a very small price to pay to save someone’s life”.
What keeps her going is her goal that one day people will think ‘I’m going to beat it’ when they are diagnosed with cancer, not ‘I’m going to die’. Seeing the spirit and resilience she has used to deal with everything life has thrown at her, you get the impression Michelle won’t be stopping until her mission is accomplished.
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