12 June 2020
My name is Charlotte Ralph, I’m 38 and have been battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma on and off for four years. Now is my turn to thank the NHS for everything they’ve done for me.
“In 2016 I began chemotherapy treatment at Frimley Park Hospital after I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma shortly after finding out I was pregnant.
“When my cancer became more complicated, I was referred to University Hospital Southampton where I’ve since spent months of my life on ward C6.
I initially got the call to say I had a 10/10 stem cell match in late summer of 2017 which was the best news our family had heard in a long time.”
A stem cell or bone marrow transplant replaces damaged blood cells with healthy ones. It can be used to treat conditions affecting the blood cells, such as leukaemia and lymphoma.
“Unfortunately a relentless period of viruses followed by a relapse of my lymphoma delayed my transplant by nine months. Thankfully my donor was very accommodating and patient, and in June 2018 I received a stem cell transplant from an anonymous donor.
“The transplant team on Ward C6 at Southampton were simply amazing. They are so caring and get to know their patients really well. I was there in isolation for nine weeks as they have to destroy any unhealthy blood cells before replacing them with the healthy donor stem cells. The isolation wasn’t pleasant, but I was in a nice environment, and had every faith in the team looking after me.
“Then suddenly in January 2020 I was admitted to General Intensive Care at Frimley with pneumonia. I was there for five weeks on a ventilator, and was in a medically induced coma for three weeks. When I woke up I couldn’t even move my legs, I’d lost so much muscle.
“I had to learn to breathe for myself, swallow, eat and drink, talk, and eventually get mobile again.
“By the time I left hospital on 12th March I could walk a few steps with a walking frame. Following discharge from hospital, I’ve been shielding at my parents house, gradually getting mobile and strong.
“I’m missing John, my absolute rock of a husband, my son Ben (6), and daughter Kezzie (3) like mad but I am putting this time to good use.
This June I am walking 5,000 steps or cycling 10k on the exercise bike over 10-12 days, finishing on Sunday 14 June. This marks my second re-birthday and two years since I had the stem cell transplant!
“Less than three months ago I was completely dependent on medical staff and machinery to perform every function – so this represents a huge challenge for me and it is testament to both hospitals for getting me this far.”
I have so much respect and praise for the NHS.
Help me to support other patients through a donation to Southampton Hospitals Charity and Frimley Health Charity: virginmoneygiving.com/CharlotteRalph3