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THE leukaemia sufferer who melted the heart of Robbie Williams is losing her battle with the deadly illness.

Johanna MacVicar, who has been in remission for several years, now faces a desperate battle for life.

Her only chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant.

But the 26-year-old has been told, despite a world wide bone marrow register of 6.5 million people, no match has been found for her so far.

Johanna refuses to give up though. Instead, she has vowed to throw her energy in to attracting more life saving donors for the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register.

She said: ``I can't just sit at home staring at four walls and do nothing. I have to get the message out there that you have it in you to save a life.

``Make it a priority on your Christmas list this year.''

This time last year, Johanna, from Bishopton, Renfrewshire, was on around the world trip. Doctors allowed her to stop taking medication altogether and she campaigned tirelessly to raise thousands of pounds for fellow sufferers.

Her greatest triumph was inspiring Robbie Williams to sign up after they were introduced at a concert. The pair have been pals ever since.

Johanna said: ``Robbie is a lovely guy. He doesn't act like a superstar at all when you meet him.

``Instead, he's interested in you and genuinely wants to know how he can help. He calls occasionally for a chat.''

She also received backing fromRangers legends Ally McCoist and Barry Ferguson.

Johanna is close to Scots actor Dougray Scott as well. She met him as he prepared for a role as a leukaemia sufferer in his film Ripley's Game.

She said: ``He's shocked that the leukaemia is back. But the news has made him even more determined to encouragemorebonemarrow donors.''

Last night, Dougray said: ``I am very saddened to hear that Johanna's leukaemia is back.

``However, I know Johanna very well and she is a great fighter. I have no doubt she will get better.

``The fight against this disease goes on and the need for support from the public is greater than ever.''

Dougray was guest of honour at an Anthony Nolan ball in Glasgow that Johanna organised earlier thismonth which raised more than pounds 30,000 for the charity.

She said: ``It was a fantastic night but I was a bit like Cinderella. Everyone was telling me I was looking great but I didn't feel it. I wasstrugglingtobreatheand it was so annoying that I had to go to bed early.''

Just days ago, a check-up confirmed leukaemia cells were back in her body.

Johanna said: ``This time last year I was sunbathing on the beach in Australia and felt so healthy that carrying a heavy backpack was no problem. Now even walking up the stairs exhausts me.

``I've cried tears of frustration that this disease I've been clear of for so long has come back.

``I've never allowed leukaemia to get in the way of my life before but I'm having difficulty breathing.''

Johanna is now taking Glivec, a new leukaemia drug, and she has an appoint-ment at the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, after Christmas to discuss treatment.

First diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia at 16, she knows her only real hope is a bone marrow transplant.

Her ideal match would be tissue donated from a man aged between 18 and 40. Men are generally able to provide larger volumes of bone marrow. But there is a desperate shortage of male donors.

Johanna, who has a rare tissue group, has already had one transplant fail.

She spent Christmas in an isolation ward after the operation. Her weight had plunged to six and a half stone and she felt too sick even to eat Christmas dinner.

She said: ``I was cut off from the world for 10 weeks and it was a very lonely time.

``Everything had to be sterilised so I couldn't even have wrapping paper on my Christmas presents. All my hair had fallenout. I remember sitting there with a santa caponmybaldhead feeling sorry for myself.

``People are going through that right now and it's worth sparing a thought for them.''

The chances of finding a donor are slim, however. Of the 6.5 million people on the register of donors, not one is a match for Johanna so far.

Johanna said: ``It would be a chance in a million to find my perfect match.

``But what goes around comes around and hopefully someone somewhere else in the world will find the match which saves my life.''

Potential donors can register simply by providing a blood sample. If the blood matches a patient, marrow is taken using long hollow needles under general anaesthetic. There is no cutting or stitching.

Donors must be aged 1840, in good health and weigh more than eight stone. If you can help, call the Anthony Nolan Trust hotline on 0901 88 22 234.


HELP: Football star Barry Ferguson; CAMPAIGNER: Former footballer Ally McCoist, left, and actor Dougray Scott backed Johanna; MY ANGEL: Johanna with her close pal Robbie Williams, who she persuaded to sign up for the bone marrow register
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 19, 2003
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