Emily Land: Joy for Leeds 21-year-old as bone marrow transplant from stranger leaves her cancer-free

A Leeds woman diagnosed with leukaemia is now cancer-free thanks to a bone marrow transplant from a stranger.
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Emily Land, 21, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia - cancer of the white blood cells - after she started finding bruises across her body. After seeing her GP, Emily was sent to St James' Hospital in Leeds in October 2021, for a blood test and later that day was told she had leukaemia.

After four rounds of chemotherapy, Emily was given the all-clear in July 2022 but just six weeks later she relapsed. Emily was placed on the Anthony Nolan transplant register and three months later was told they found a match from a stranger in the Netherlands.

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Emily is now on the road to recovery and says she wouldn't have got through it without her mum, Kirstie, 53, by her side.

Emily Land with mum Kirstie Plenderleith and stepdad Andrew Plenderleith. Picture: Simon HulmeEmily Land with mum Kirstie Plenderleith and stepdad Andrew Plenderleith. Picture: Simon Hulme
Emily Land with mum Kirstie Plenderleith and stepdad Andrew Plenderleith. Picture: Simon Hulme

Emily said: "I was in shock when I was told I had cancer, I didn't realise what I was being told. It was a case of being shown a room and saying 'here is your room for the night you are staying in'. It was different for my mum, she knew the severity of the situation. I didn't take anything from that whole time.

"When I got told I had relapsed it was worse because I didn't know what to expect with the transplant. It didn't feel real at all. Now I am cancer-free, I am going to counselling to overcome what I have been through. There is a lot of trauma - this is something a lot of people my age haven't been through."

Emily was waiting for a transplant for three months before her mum Kirstie got a call in November 2022, telling her that they had found a match in the Netherlands.

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Kirstie said: "It was bizarre really. We knew that we needed a match, but we had no idea how Anthony Nolan worked or anything like that. We just thought that we would get people signed up ourselves. A lot of my friends took it upon themselves to go everywhere and get people signed up.

"We were at Leeds train station every Saturday getting people signed up, we went to Elland Road and stood outside colleges. We were just trying to get as many people as possible to sign up."

Emily went into the hospital on December 8 and received her transplant on December 16 and 17. The transplant took place over two days and involved a transfusion where her damaged blood cells were replaced with healthy ones.

Emily said: "The recovery was tough, that was the hardest thing. I had restarted the gym, I had been walking and for me to not even be able to have a shower or walk to the bathroom without being out of breath or needing help was frustrating.”

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Emily said she would love to meet up with the woman who saved her life. She said: "All we know about them is that they are a woman and they are 25 years old. I have to wait two years until we can meet her but I would be so open to meeting - it is amazing what she has done.

"I don't have the words to thank her."