Sarah Fulcher has thanked donors for making her life saving treatment more comfortable.

Sarah was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) six years ago after suffering repeated bouts of tonsillitis and being constantly tired.

Sarah underwent a successful stem cell transplant at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and now wants to raise awareness of how charity funding enhance the care of patients receiving life-saving care.

I look totally unrecognisable...

Sarah said: “I was at the hospital recently and saw one of the charity pop up banners, which had a photo of me when I was receiving treatment. It seems surreal to see that now. I look totally unrecognisable and it just shows the progress that I have made.

“When I was diagnosed with AML it was a complete shock and I don’t think it sunk in for a long time. My husband, Marc, felt like he’d been hit by a tonne of bricks.  It all happened so quickly – I had a blood test at 11.30am and by early evening I received a phone call from my GP saying that I had to go to hospital straight away. 

“I was initially in hospital for four months, where I had to remain in isolation due to the risk of picking up an infection. This was an incredibly lonely time, and while it is of the utmost importance during treatment, it is also vital that you still have the support network of your friends and family around you.

“Having a private room was brilliant, as it meant I had my own space and privacy. I could relax more easily and I didn't have to feel self-conscious about being on a ward with other patients. I find it very hard to sleep when other people are around and I would have struggled if I had had to stay on a ward.

“However, at home, we all take access to a television, views out of a window, painted coloured walls and internet access for granted. In hospital, you often can’t see out of a window and you are surrounded by stark white walls, sometimes for several weeks. This can be quite depressing.

“Thanks to charity funding I was able to watch TV when I wanted, in a nicely decorated room, with access to Wi-Fi. I could keep in contact with friends and family via skype which made a huge difference. These kinds of distractions made the experience so much more bearable.”

Photo credit - Yorkshire Post

Before Sarah’s treatment, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust refurbished eleven en-suite side rooms at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital’s Ward P3 for patients requiring isolation while receiving treatment.

To make the stay more comfortable, Sheffield Hospitals Charity donations contributed £150,000 for the added extras which allowed patients like Sarah access facilities including entertainment systems, room artworks and comfortable reclining chairs.

It’s now been almost four years since my transplant and I'm living each day as it comes...

“After my initial treatment I underwent regular blood tests and bone marrow aspirations as part of a clinical trial. Unfortunately I suffered a relapse in January 2015, but thanks to this trial it was picked up very early,” Sarah said.

“I then underwent fertility preservation at the Assisted Conception Unit at the Jessop Wing, and another round of chemotherapy before having my stem cell transplant which was in May 2015. It was after this I was given the amazing news that I was in remission.

“It’s now been almost four years since my transplant and I'm living each day as it comes. Some days are worse than others but I am so lucky to be here.  I have had to come to terms with the fact that my life will never be the same again, which probably sounds more dramatic than it is, but I have to learn to live life at a much slower pace.

“Looking to the future, we hope to start a family with the help of IVF and a donor egg as I went through menopause as a result of my treatment.

“I am also an active fundraiser to raise funds to help other haematology patients and in recognition of the care I received.

“Receiving my initial diagnosis and again when I found out that I had relapsed were obviously quite worrying times for both myself and my family. All of the staff were there to answer any queries and always managed to put me at ease. I believe that my speedy recovery is testament to the care and treatment I have received. I truly owe my life to the staff and will be eternally grateful.”

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