A cancer survivor saved by a stem cell transplant is running the Virgin Money London Marathon this weekend to raise money for the charity that saved his life.
Ricki Watson, 27, was diagnosed with two strains of leukaemia in October 2013. The only cure was a stem cell transplant. With the help of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan a donor was found for Ricki, and the transplant took place in January 2014.
If a patient has a condition that affects their bone marrow or blood, then a stem cell transplant may be their best chance of survival. Doctors will give new, healthy stem cells to the patient via their bloodstream, where they begin to grow and create healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Although Ricki has two brothers and two sisters, none of them were a suitable match for him. Anthony Nolan searched the worldwide donor register and found a woman from Germany who matched his tissue type. Although Ricki has not spoken to her directly, the pair have exchanged anonymous cards and letters.
Ricki, who co-owns a scaffolding business, is now determined to raise money for the charity and help others who are going through the same experience.
Ricki said: “When I was in hospital I was the most positive I could be.
“I nearly died from allergic reactions four times, and was put on a ventilator when my lungs gave up, but I always stayed strong.”
Ricki, from Horsham, has made a dramatic recovery, which he credits to eating healthily and exercising since he left hospital. He said: “Two years ago I couldn’t even walk up the stairs. I had to give up my house and live with my mum in Crawley. I had to stop halfway up climbing the stairs to have a breather.
“I was determined that I wasn’t just going to get better, I was going to be even stronger than I used to be. As soon as I got out of hospital I was back in the gym. Eight months later I climbed Ben Nevis.’
At his lowest point, Ricki weighed just seven stone and had to be tube-fed. He made a promise to himself in hospital that he would run the London Marathon in memory of two friends he made on the ward, Tanyel and Dan, who sadly passed away.
Ricki has already beaten his £5,000 fundraising goal, and is determined to raise as much money as possible for future cancer patients like him.
To sponsor Ricki, visit his JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ricki-Watson