3 February 2023

Wokingham Half Marathon following husbands stem cell transplant

You’ve not felt well for a few months and are always tired. You seek medical advice, only to be told its cancer. That’s what happened when prep-school teacher Tony Mayes was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2022. His wife, Jane, and workplace have risen to the challenge to support the hospital saving his life. Jane explains:

“Tony and I have been together since 2004 and spend all our time with each other.

We both work at Waverley Preparatory School in Wokingham as teachers, Tony as the Forest School Teacher and Caretaker, and I look after Year 4 pupils.

In autumn 2021, Tony had been fighting cold after cold. He was always tired and had no energy. He never seemed to get better. It was relentless.

We went to our local doctors in Basingstoke but nothing was picked up. Then at the end of the year he found a lump on his neck.

He lost a lot of weight and a few weeks later, he woke to find his gums enlarged. Something was definitely wrong.

We got a GP telephone appointment on 27 January. We were asked to go in immediately for a blood test due to concerns for his health.

They rushed through the results, and that afternoon we were told to go to Basingstoke Hospital where he was diagnosed with chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia.”

This is a slow progressing form of cancer where there are too many myelomonocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the bone marrow. This crowds out other normal blood cells, such as other white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

“His leukaemia then progressed to acute myeloid leukaemia, which is more aggressive, with two gene mutations also affecting the production of his blood.

The cancer was getting worse, so it was critical that Tony had a stem cell transplant to save his life.

Before that could happen, Tony underwent four gruelling courses of chemotherapy at Basingstoke Hospital, before being transferred to University Hospital Southampton during the summer for the final dose of chemotherapy.

This would help his bone marrow to make more stem cells and to move the new transplanted cells into his bloodstream. It was brutal on his body though.

The specialist transplant team were with us all of the time, throughout his treatment on the C6 cancer ward.

He had a nine-day break at home after the chemotherapy, then returned to the hospital for the stem cell transplant. His brother, Eric donated the cells in Australia before they were flown across.

Tony turned 50 the day after this stem cell transplant! It was certainly a novel way to celebrate the occasion.

The staff tried to make the day as special as they could. Because of the nature of bone marrow transplant and increased risk of infections, I wasn’t allowed to visit him on the ward, either on his birthday, or during the recovery from the transplant.

This was so very hard for both of us.

Running the Wokingham Half Marathon

There were times when Tony felt really alone. And I felt utterly helpless. That is when the strength of the staff came through. They work so hard, always have a smile for you, and are simply so talented at what they do.

Tony still has a long way to go, but we are hopeful for a full recovery.

Ward C6 at University Hospital Southampton are saving Tony’s life. It is that simple.

They’ve given us hope, so on 26 February, Team Waverley (myself, Mark Tighe and his wife Julie, our dear friend Chloe, Tracey, Gill and Hayley (all teachers at Waverley) several parents as well will be running the Wokingham Half Marathon in support of Southampton Hospitals Charity.  Our nephew Joseph and many of Waverley School children are also running the mini mile on the same day.

Our thanks to the continued support of Waverley School and the amazing pupils who took part in a Santa run before Christmas, and those who have been doing their own challenges in support of Tony.

Due to the isolation on the ward, we hope the money can buy some radios for the bed spaces. There were times when the silence was deafening. The TV didn’t always work, and the WiFi was patchy. He felt so alone.”

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