FEATURE: Seven years on, Diss resident Terita Smith still waiting for a stem cell transplant
Terita Smith featured on the front of the Diss Express in May 2008, aged 26, appealing for people to join the bone marrow register in a bid to save lives after she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Seven years on, a current lack of African-Caribbean donors means she is still waiting for a stem cell transplant.
The Diss resident, and mother of three-year-old Brieana, is currently undergoing a course of oral chemotherapy, which keeps the disease at bay — but admits a bone marrow transplant would be “life changing.”
She first went to the doctors complaining of constant tiredness and aching joints, and blood tests initially showed she had sickle-cell anaemia. But further checks were taken after lumps appeared on her body, and was told she had acute myeloid leukaemia.
“I did not think I would be on the register for this long,” she said. “A match would be absolutely amazing.
“It would be a second chance of life. What I would say to people is just imagine yourself or your family in this situation. If it is not to help me, help someone else. The greatest gift you can give someone is life.”
Terita believes there has been a “lack of education” about the donating process, adding: “It is not a major operation, it is a simple procedure.
“I have got a massive support system around me, in terms of my husband’s (Scott) family.
“My mother-in-law (Wilma) is pretty much my mum, she is my angel on earth. I don’t know what I would do without her.
“I am just so grateful for everything, and I am just so thankful to be able to experience my daughter growing up.”
Sister-in-law Nicola Deacon described her as “an inspiration”.
“She is such an amazing person,” she said. “Anyone who sees her would not think she was ill. We see the different side, but I don’t know how she does it.
“I think if that was me I would be crawling up into a ball but she is the opposite.”
Mrs Smith’s story was recently featured on ITV’s Surprise Surprise. The show arranged for her to see her mother Alice Cohen, in New York City, and brother, Javaughn Reid, of the US Navy and based in California, who she had not seen for 12 years, her disease preventing her on numerous occasions of getting a visa.
“It was absolutely amazing,” added the former accountancy student. “It was a dream come true, I had no idea, I did not know anything about it.”
n For more on the Anthony Nolan register or to join, see www.anthonynolan.org