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Surviving blood cancer against the odds

Cathy in hospital with blood cancer
May 9, 2022

It’s not every day you hear about a book, illustrating the story of a recipient, Cathy, going through the highs and lows, against all odds, to try and beat blood cancer. Her only hope was to receive blood stem cells from a stranger.

Cathy has been feeling unwell for some time. Eventually her worst fears are confirmed with the shock diagnosis of leukaemia. Cathy has a deep-seated aversion to medical procedures but without immediate treatment she will not survive – not a great combination. Maybe this is not going to end well.

Cathy’s moving, unflinchingly honest and often humorous recollections and reflections chart her experience from diagnosis to cure and beyond. Along the way, she is admitted to ICU and placed in an induced coma, her mother dies, she gratefully undergoes a lifesaving but risky stem-cell transplant, marries her partner of 37 years and moves house twice. And that was just in the first year.

Cathy has been so kind to share an excerpt of her story, to give you, precious donor, a glimpse into her journey and the realities of searching for a blood stem cell donor.

“A search was made in the registries in Australia and overseas to find my genetic twin. As a Caucasian I had a good chance of a match as 77% of the donors world-wide are white. At present those of African, Asian or Hispanic ancestry or mixed race have far fewer options available to them. Only 3% of donors world-wide are of mixed race which means finding a match is a bit like winning the lottery.

An interesting fact: in 2017-18 The Alfred did twenty-nine allogenic transplants and fifty-six autologous (own cell) transplants.

I had two matches, one in Germany and one in Australia. Ten million potential bone marrow donors are registered in Germany but only 200,000 Australian donors are on the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

Nurses from The Alfred Hospital regularly travel overseas and interstate to collect the precious donor cells which they keep with them on the plane. (No; the cells do not have their own seat.) The doctors decided to use the stem cells from the Australian donor, a woman aged forty.”

Except taken from Cathy Koning’s book, LIFE BLOOD, Lessons from one woman who survived serious illness against the odds, published in 2021.

You can learn more about Cathy and her journey by visiting her website:


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