Giving blood ‘so, so crucial’: cancer survivor

Dunedin woman Shania Fox, alive today thanks to a blood donor. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Dunedin woman Shania Fox, alive today thanks to a blood donor. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Blood donors are told they are saving lives, and Dunedin woman Shania Fox is the living proof.

Ms Fox, now 22, was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was 14.

She has been cancer-free for five years, and owes her recovery to an anonymous donor whose O+ blood was a close match to her own.

"I was so lucky to have a matched donor because my body kept on rejecting the blood I was given in the initial phase of my treatment," she said.

"It was really scary in those first few weeks because they couldn’t give me chemotherapy until my blood was at a level where the chemo wasn’t going to kill me.

"Getting a working transfusion felt like having an energy drink. You would have this enormous pick-me-up and be pinging off the walls — you are so sick, and then suddenly you feel so alive."

June 14 is World Blood Donor day and Ms Fox, unsurprisingly, said she could not emphasise enough the importance of being a blood donor.

"It’s just so, so crucial."

Less than 4% of New Zealanders are blood donors, a proportion NZ Blood very much wants to increase in order to help the 29,000 patients treated with blood or blood products annually.

Patients like Ms Fox, whose cancer diagnosis while a pupil at Kavanagh College was a complete shock.

"We thought I just had low iron, and we got sent straight to Christchurch for treatment, so not even being in Dunedin was a shock to the system as well, but you soon adjust to life in hospital."

Although classified a high-risk patient because of her age and low red blood cell count when she was diagnosed, Ms Fox had a "good" cancer which could be treated.

"Fortunately I managed to come out the other side. January this year marked my five years off treatment so I was officially cured.

"If I get a cancer now it won’t be a secondary cancer, it will be something completely different, although cancer is an ongoing thing. It will stay with me for life."

Getting better required more than 35 transfusions and several bouts of chemotherapy.

Ms Fox is now sitting her final exams at the University of Otago to complete a bachelor of commerce degree.

"The sad thing is that I’ll never find out who my amazing donor is.

"That’s why I do a lot of work with NZ Blood, because if it wasn’t for that person I might not be here."



Please donate blood if you can! I'm in a position where I am not allowed, but if I could I'd be there every few months.



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