With three previous marathons between them, Bernadette (Bernie) and Nikki are soon to undertake an epic challenge and run 70 miles, from Portsmouth to London. Why? To push themselves both physically and mentally, and to do something that would earn them the right to ask people to donate something other than money; something that will have a significant impact on the lives of many seriously ill people.
They are asking people to give blood, as well as register to become a stem cell donor for Delete Blood Cancer (DKMS). Their challenge is inspired by loved ones who have battled illness, as well as complete strangers. Here’s their story.
'In September 2014, I gave birth to my second son, Ewan, who is now two and a half. Unfortunately during the delivery I lost a lot of blood, which meant I needed emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. I received two units of blood – blood from a complete stranger. A stranger who quite possibly saved my life.
'Unfortunately, because I have now received blood, I can never be a donor again, so when Nikki told me about her amazing friend Alex, who had recently been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and had taken it upon herself to encourage as many people as possible to donate blood, I knew I needed to contribute somehow.
'Alex made a huge difference and influenced a lot of people. When Nikki rang me to tell me Alex had passed away on 23 February, I was devastated. I never met Alex, but I didn’t need to. Her drive, bravery and passion to make a difference was clear, as was her willingness to give back, even though she was very ill.
Together, Nikki and I want to continue her work and legacy; contribute to the fight against blood cancer, and give those who need it the gift of life by donating one of the most precious thing we possess – our blood and stem cells.'
'I don’t find running easy. Sometimes I go for a run and feel like it’s the first time I’ve ever done any exercise in my life. But other times it feels great and I am amazed at what I can achieve. It’s then that I remember how much I take my body for granted. I just expect it to work; to keep on living.
'My friend Alex was quite possibly the fittest she had ever been when she received her diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) in November 2015. She was training multiple times a week, playing netball, running and hitting the gym. But although she couldn’t quite put her finger on what was wrong, she knew she wasn’t feeling right.
'She went for a blood test and just 24 hours later was asked to go to hospital. To this day, I have not forgotten phoning Alex to find out what was happening and hearing her tiny voice say, ‘I’ve got leukaemia’.
'Within a matter of weeks, Alex had bone marrow biopsies, blood transfusions, a Hickman line fitted, chemotherapy and an ovary whipped out (as the chemotherapy would affect her fertility). Alex went through all of this with such dignity, bravery and all-round positivity that it was easy to forget she was even sick.
'In the months that followed, Alex continued to take things in her stride and despite the agonising battle she faced every day, she used her energy to help others, encouraging others to become donors and sharing her story through her inspirational blog to help others facing the same battle.
'To say her family and friends were devastated when Alex picked up a virus that her weakened immune system just couldn’t fight off, and passed away on 23 Feb 2017, aged 30, is an understatement. That is why I am running. For Alex.'
Bernie and Nikki undertake their 70-mile challenge on 10 and 11 April 2017. Their goal is to get as many blood and stem cell donors registered as possible. You can help!
- Visit blood.co.uk and register to become a blood donor (or make an appointment if you are a lapsed donor).
- Visit dkms.org.uk to join the stem cell register.
- Alternatively, if you are unable to become a donor or would like to support the challenge, you can provide much-needed funds for DKMS by donating online at justgiving.com/bstchallenge