Vithiya Alphons was warned by doctors if she had left it a few more days to get help her parents would be organising her funeral within a week
A seriously ill student has begged for help stem cell donor in the next two months after being told she will die if no match is found.
Final-year Cardiff University medical student Vithiya Alphons , from London, said she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia after falling ill during a lecture.
Doctors have warned her she is facing a race against time to find a donor – something made more complicated by her Sri Lanka heritage.
Ms Alphons said: “I knew it was going to be difficult because there aren’t many people from South Asian backgrounds who are signed up as donors.
“It’s frustrating but I don’t think it’s about Asian people not wanting to sign up. They just don’t know what it is – they think it’s taking something from your bone.
“We have to raise awareness.”
Ms Alphons’s brother Clime wanted to help, but is only a 50% match.
She said: “I’m blessed to love what I do, so I was desperate to get back to my studies.
“I asked if I could go back to uni, and I remember the doctors looking at me and saying no way. They explained, ‘If you’d left it a few more days, your parents would have been organising your funeral this week.’
“It was a shock. I just thought, ‘thank God I’m still alive’.”
Over the next four weeks, the trainee eye specialist had a difficult time with complications from chemotherapy. She was in pain, vomiting six or seven times every day, and had every side effect possible.
After her third course of chemotherapy, things were looking good.
She said: “I felt normal again, I’d been home for three weeks and my hair was growing back. I felt so positive. My nurses, consultant, everyone, thought we’d beaten it.
“But unfortunately, further tests showed the leukaemia was still there in my blood and I’d definitely relapse in under a year unless I had a stem cell transplant. It was so upsetting and unexpected.”
Ann O’Leary, head of register development at blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, said: “Vithiya is a bright and inspirational young woman and somewhere out there, there’s a potential lifesaver who could give her a lifeline by donating their stem cells.
“We are so grateful to Vithiya for raising awareness of the need for more Asian and ethnic minority donors, and for busting the myth that donating stem cells is painful.
“Joining the Anthony Nolan register just involves filling in a form and providing a saliva sample. If you’re one of the privileged few who goes on to donate, 90% of the time this will now take place via an outpatient appointment which is similar to donating blood.”