‘It’s too late for me but please help others with cancer’
A 34-year-old Melton woman with incurable cancer has made an emotional appeal to help save the lives of other sufferers.
Alice Hanagan, a former beauty therapist, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) two years ago but delays with her treatment due to the coronavirus pandemic drastically reduced her chances of survival.
Time has sadly run out for Alice to have a stem cell transplant, which could have saved her life at an earlier stage of her condition, but she is appealing for people to donate stem cells to boost the survival chances of other cancer patients.
Alice said: “It is too late for me to have a stem cell transplant now, but my situation has brought home to me how little people know about the importance of donating stem cells and how easy it is.
“All it takes is one swab of the cheek.
“Pregnant women can help by donating their placentas after birth.
“It is such a simple step, and it could save the life of someone like me.
“It is research that led to this life-saving procedure of a stem cell transplant, and research that will save the lives of more people in the future, so continuing to fundraise and donate through Cancer Research UK is of vital importance.”
As AML patients are typically older and Alice was only 32 at the time of diagnosis, her cancer took some time to be found.
The devastating news that she had it came just before Christmas 2019, after 10 months of investigations.
As she was so young, Alice had fertility treatment in January last year before enduring six months of intensive chemotherapy, in complete isolation due to Covid, an experience she describes as ‘harrowing’.
She went into remission in July 2020 but the extra risks due to Covid meant she could not be considered for a stem cell transplant to boost her chances of survival.
Alice relapsed six months later, the very same day she was also diagnosed with coronavirus.
This held up her treatment for a further three months and by the time she was well enough to undergo a further four months of chemotherapy, her cancer had stopped responding to treatment.
Targeted therapy failed to put Alice back into remission so, yet again, she could not undergo a stem cell transplant.
It had been her last, slim chance of survival as her sister was only a half match and a full donor match could not be found.
By this time Alice’s cancer had progressed further and she is now living with incurable cancer, not knowing how long she has left.
She attended her own ‘fake wake’ with family members, friends and partner, Dex, to celebrate her life.
Alice is being kept alive by twice-weekly blood and platelet transfusions - a fact she describes as ‘remarkable’.
“I don’t feel ill with the transfusions, but the exhaustion is extreme,” she added.
“Mine is the most bizarre situation to be in – it boggles your mind.
“To some extent I am in denial about death, but at the same time I know I don’t have long left.
“Before I die, I want to create an impact as much as I can.
“I find it remarkable that blood and platelet transfusions twice a week can keep me alive, and I’m so grateful for the past research that has produced the treatments that have helped me survive as long as I have.”
Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Leicestershire, said: “We are so grateful to Alice for her selfless support and for thinking of others when her own situation is so difficult.
“Cancer Research UK was instrumental in revolutionising stem cell collection.
“By making the collection of stem cells kinder for donors, this vital work helped increase the number of people willing to donate stem cells and is keeping more cancer patients alive.”
One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime with an average of more than 23,000 people diagnosed every year in the East Midlands, alone.
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK’s work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of the progress that has seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
Ms Redman added: “This past year proves, more than any other, the value of research and what can be achieved together.
“Just as science is our route out of the pandemic, science is our route to beating cancer.
“That’s why we want to harness the ‘people power’ of our incredible supporters, because the progress we make relies on every hour of research, every pound donated and everyone who gets involved.
“So, whether they give £2 a month, sign up to fundraise, volunteer at our shops or pledge to leave a gift in their Will - with the help of people in Leicestershire we believe that together we will beat cancer.”
The charity spent over £1 million in Leicestershire in 2020 on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
Go online at www.cruk.org to find out more about how you can help support research into cancer.