Published: 14:00, 08 October 2020
| Updated: 17:54, 14 October 2020
A heartbroken mother is pleading for people to join the bone marrow register to help in the race against time to find a donor match for her seriously-ill daughter.
Keisha Pile-Gray, from Westgate, is living every parent's worst nightmare, watching her little girl Aurora, nine, fight a fast-spreading and aggressive cancer, affecting the blood and bone marrow.
The mum-of-three says despite chemotherapy treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, due to the severity of the disease, oncology specialists have told her a transplant is Aurora's only hope.
But due to her mixed ethnicity, she faces worse odds of finding a donor due to her genetic make-up and the lack of availability of possible matches.
Keisha and Aurora's father have been told they are unlikely to be a match and so the bone marrow register is their best chance.
Keisha said: "Currently, only 69% of patients can find the best possible match from a stranger, and this drops dramatically to 20% if you’re a patient from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background. This is why it is so important to spread awareness and encourage everyone to sign up."
Aurora, who attends St Saviour's Junior School in Westgate, was diagnosed in May, after the normally healthy youngster began suffering a pain in her chin. She then developed a huge golf-ball sized lump behind her ear and another soon after.
Within weeks, her condition deteriorated so drastically she was bluelighted to a London hospital with her heartbroken mum given the shock news her daughter has stage 4 lymphoma.
Keisha, whose baby son Oscar has just been diagnosed with epilepsy and in September was told her two-year-old daughter Ada-Ireland has congenital adrenal hyperplasia, says it has been a difficult year to say the least.
In an emotional blog, Keisha admits the family had a glimmer of hope last month when they were told Aurora was responding to treatment and that her scans showed she was completely clear of all tumours.
But just two weeks later, the ecstatic family was dealt the devastating blow that she isn't in remission.
"Our world was flipped upside down all over again," said Keisha.
"Her consultant called to tell us that her bone marrow result said otherwise.
"Not only was she not in remission, her cancer was back with a vengeance, with 40% of her bone marrow being affected, 50% more than when she was initially diagnosed.
"I had to sit down with our daughter and tell her that not only was she still sick, she was more sick than when she started, and she needed more treatment, including a transplant.
"We met with her consultant and it was like we were transported straight back to her initial diagnosis, but this time the odds had been switched and they were no longer in her favour."
Keisha says there is no other option but for Aurora to have more treatment, but that this requires a donor.
"We’ve been given options, but ultimately it's now a race against time," she said.
The two options are either targeted therapies to try to eliminate the cancer in her bone marrow alongside a transplant, or a brand new treatment in the UK called CAR-T cell therapy, which is used in America, but it is not clear when it will become available.
"Before she can even be accepted for the treatment, she needs a donor match lined up, ready for transplant, which is our only hope.
"Aurora’s life now depends on finding a match on the bone marrow register.
"I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m scared, but most of all, I’m desperate.
"I’m begging, if you haven’t already, please join the bone marrow register."