Wish letters: Dear Gemma, my sister and my bone marrow donor
You were only 10 when I was diagnosed with leukaemia. Initially we didn’t want to tell you as you were so little. It was a scary time for everyone and we didn’t want you getting upset.
I can’t imagine what it was like for you trying to understand everything that was going on.
But you were my little side kick… having you beside me in the ward torturing me, playing games and even arguing with me kept me going.
Oh and not to forget how you were my dancing partner! Those hours we spent choreographing and practising routines in the corridors of the hospital ward (as strange as we may have looked), I really appreciated.
Those moments are what kept me strong and gave me determination.
Things were all looking up at Christmas that year, we were back on track and I was healthy again. You had your big sister back at home and life was back to normal.
But then for the second time in just over a year, my world was turned upside down with one phone call. I’ll never forget that moment standing in the hall with you and mum when Dr Finnegan rang to give us the news.
Hearing those words ‘it’s back’ – as you saw at the time – initially broke me. But being me, I decided not to let it get me down or worry as I was going to fight it.
Being a big sister made this even more important as I have to set a good example for you. Being strong and not letting anything stop me was the best thing I could show you.
When I was told my only option was to have a bone marrow transplant, I knew it was very serious. I was willing to do anything as long as it was going to make me better.
But they had to get me into remission first. You again had to watch me go through even more, tougher chemotherapy which this time made things a little more real to us all as I was losing my hair.
When I decided to shave it off instead of watch it fall out you picked up those scissors. Yes I may have feared for my life seeing the devilment in your eyes holding them – but it was great to see you having a laugh at such a strange time for everyone. It made the whole situation much easier and I must say that day is one of my favourite memories from my time in hospital. So thank you for helping Mum chop all of my hair off, you did a fabulous job.
The next part of my journey I was told was going to be very difficult. But I was prepared for all to come. So I went through all of my treatment in prep for my bone marrow transplant.
That’s when you came along as my little superhero. My little 11-year-old sister, as terrified as you were, was my match for transplant. After being told mum would have needed to have had 36 children to have a match for me, who would have thought with only you and Hannah that we would have a match. Thankfully you and I matched perfectly! We always told you that you were a mini me and now it was proven you really were! Lucky you haha!
You were so young and only just started high school when I was ready for transplant. I remember seeing your terrified face at the thought of a needle.
I felt awful that you had to go through something that wasn’t for yourself. You were in a situation that scared the life out of you because of me. But your response, even though you were so scared, was ‘if it makes you better, it’s worth it’. As you know I’m not really an emotional person but it brought tears to my eyes. You put on a brave face and you went to hospital to donate your bone marrow. You were so little to be going through such a big procedure – but you bravely did it!
Of course the first thing you wanted was a McDonald’s! Seeing you parade into my hospital room, limping and complaining about how you’d really need a wheelchair – it made me giggle. Classic Gemma… drama queen! Haha. I couldn’t help but laugh at you that evening as I knew you were milking it.
The words ‘I hope you like your Christmas present Amy’ then came out of your mouth and again I was in stitches…only you could come out with something like that!
I must say it was the best Christmas present I could ever be given.
I could not be more grateful for what you did for me – no words could ever explain how thankful I am for all you did.
I’m a very lucky person having a sister like you and to say that you’re my mini me makes me so proud.
You are a star and you are my life saver! A true hero and I will forever be in your debt (as you keep reminding me haha). What makes me even more proud is how you now wish you could do it again for anyone else that you would match.
You are such a kind, generous, brave person who I am proud to call my little hero sister.
Thank you Gemma, you’re truly amazing.