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TELEGRAM SAVES LIVES: Community leader fighting cancer gives thanks

Nikki Carew says without blood donors, she might not have lived through the setbacks she experienced during her cancer treatment. —
Nikki Carew says without blood donors, she might not have lived through the setbacks she experienced during her cancer treatment. — Contributed photo

Editor’s note: The annual Telegram Saves Lives campaign runs until Oct. 26. As part of our efforts to encourage people to give blood, we’re running a series of letters from people whose lives were changed by blood donation. Nikki Carew of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s submitted this one.

I know the importance of community. Thirty-six years old and a mortgage broker, I dedicate my spare time working in my community as the chair of Brokering Wishes NL, an organization that has raised over $100,000 for Make-a-Wish.

In 2018, I received the Aidan Maloney Award for Young Professionals, which recognizes people who positively impact their chosen vocations and communities. But on April 17 of this year, I learned that I’d have to lean on my community to get through the hardest journey of my life. That was the day I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.

I felt in shock. You always hear of people receiving such devastating news, but you never think it is going to be you.

I had surgery in early May and started chemotherapy later that month. The week following the first chemotherapy session I was admitted to hospital with febrile neutropenia, a serious infection for a person receiving chemotherapy. During my stay, my hemoglobin dropped, and I needed two units of blood before I was discharged a week later.

As someone who always tries to give, I was now on the receiving end of a community’s generosity: the blood donors who donate regularly to ensure there is a steady supply for patients like me.

I was doing well until a day after my fourth chemotherapy treatment, when I developed severe abdominal pain. I was brought to the emergency department where doctors discovered my bowel had perforated as a complication of chemotherapy. I required emergency surgery to repair my bowel and remained in hospital until Sept. 30. During my two-month hospital stay, I needed five units of blood.

As someone who always tries to give, I was now on the receiving end of a community’s generosity: the blood donors who donate regularly to ensure there is a steady supply for patients like me. My loved ones wanted to say thank you to those blood donors, so on Oct. 5th, we came together with Canadian Blood Services in St. John’s to host a blood donor event in my honour.

I truly have the best support system in my family and friends. I am extremely lucky in that way. I do not know what I would do without them. There are many who go through this journey without a large support system and it is so much more difficult.

With all of the other things you have to worry about when you are going through such a medical journey, it is comforting to know that the blood supply is there for you when you need it.

Without blood donors, I might not have recovered from each setback. I still have a long road to recovery.

My cancer treatment is now only really starting. With the complications from chemotherapy, some treatments have been put on hold. I was scheduled for two more rounds of chemo, but that was cancelled when I went in for emergency surgery, as the risk of continuing chemo was too great. I was running the risk of having chemo kill me, not the cancer. I have a few surgeries remaining, along with 12 rounds of Herceptin medication and 25 rounds of radiation.

With blood donors taking the time to donate, I have a lot to be thankful for. It is because of people like you that patients who are going through extremely difficult times have one less thing to worry about; something that truly could be life-changing.

For more information on how you can support Canada’s lifeline as a blood donor, visit www.blood.ca.


Also from Telegram Saves Lives campaign

Grateful for our little warrior

I wouldn’t be here without blood transfusions

Blood donations, new heart saved my baby


Willing to donate? Here’s how

• Where:

Telegram Saves Lives donor centre

Canadian Blood Services

7 Wicklow St.

St. John’s

• When:

Thursday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 25, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

You can also book a spot at www.blood.ca or call 1-888-2-DONATE

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