Newlywed Emily Edwards has terminal cancer and only months to live but she celebrated both her birthday just before Christmas, and then Christmas itself, with her new husband Sam – thanks to the generosity of strangers.
Edwards, 28, from Eastbourne, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in 2012 and married in April 2018 after being told her condition was terminal.
She is now using some of her remaining time to support the NHS appeal for people to keep their blood donation appointments over the Christmas and New Year period, when cancellations are common.
Edwards said that she had a wonderful Christmas with her family thanks to the people who donated their blood, platelets and bone marrow.
“Without these people I wouldn’t be alive today,” she said. “It honestly is the greatest gift. It’s so important for people to keep giving blood at this time of year.”
Edwards has received around 60 units of blood and 35-40 units of platelets, which have enabled her to live for as long as she has, including spending Christmas with her new husband. The couple married in April 2018 after Sam, a 29-year-old builder, proposed in February during a trip to Budapest.
Having been together for four years, they originally planned to marry in November but brought the date forward after they received the news in April that there was no longer any chance of a cure.
“We basically organised the wedding in three days, with lots of help from our family and friends who went above and beyond to give us a magical day, we will never forget the effort they put in for us,” said Edwards.
Edwards, a dental nurse, was diagnosed after suffering a variety of symptoms while she was at university, including finding it difficult to breathe.
Acute myeloid leukaemia is an aggressive cancer. The patient’s bone marrow produces too many immature white blood cells, which then crowd out the bone marrow and prevent the creation of red blood cells and platelets.
“The blood transfusions make such difference, it’s crazy. One day you feel exhausted and then after the transfusion you are just a different person, you have much more energy,” said Edwards. “You want to say thank you to all these people so badly. I don’t think donors really understand how much it means. I would have died a long time ago without blood and platelets.”
She added: “My husband Sam has been so good, he has been amazing. He has never left my side. He used to sleep in the hospital all the time. My mum also has been a huge support from the beginning taking time off work and sitting with me all day every day for months at a time while I had to stay in hospital.”
Regular blood donors are being urged to keep their appointments over the festive period because blood stocks drop as people are busy with shopping and celebrations. Last year, around one in 10 people simply failed to turn up for their appointment.
Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We need our loyal donors to keep their appointments to make sure hospitals have the blood they need for patients like Edwards. Each donation can save up to three lives.”
Existing donors are being prioritised to try and ensure stocks stay healthy. First time donors are being asked to make an appointment for the new year, when they will be able to find appointments.