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I 'm really not brave "I just wanted to live.

Byline: By Barbara Argument

The leukaemia which devastated Lindsey Wood's tiny body is in remission.

And she's building up her strength with the help of Teesside's favourite snack... the legendary parmo.

"Loads of them," laughs 19-year-old Lindsey.

"And kebabs and pizzas. And great big Yorkshire puddings with loads of gravy."

You can't stop her talking these days. She jabbers away excitedly 15 to the dozen about everything.

After a nightmare year of radio and chemotherapy, the bonny trainee hairdresser is bouncing back.

Like the fighter she is, Lindsey is planning to turn dreams into reality. She's going to abseil, take a parachute jump and if she can, make trips to Australia and the US.

"I've got a whole new attitude to life," she insists.

"Not long ago I'd lost the use of my legs and had to be pushed around in a wheelchair.

"I was given a 50-50 chance of survival. My weight dropped two stone in just two months to 5st 7lbs and I lost all my hair.

"The treatment affects your nervous system. I shook a lot, couldn't grip anything and couldn't write.

"At times during the chemo I had no immune system either, so I had to be really careful.

"My family and friends spoiled me rotten and said how brave I was, but it wasn't a question of being brave.

"I had to do it. There was no choice and I wanted to live."

Lindsey, who works at Saks at Tall Trees in Yarm, was diagnosed with leukaemia in October last year. The teenager from Ingleby Barwick had just come back from a holiday with pals in Kavos and was frightened at how ill she felt.

Pals at work kept telling her to put on more make-up because she looked so pale.

Lindsey says: "But no matter how much blusher I put on, it didn't work. I ended up looking like a clown.

"I was so thirsty too, I must have been drinking about ten pints of water a day and coffee too.

"Because there is anaemia in the family, I started taking iron pills and even had sunbeds to be a better colour.

"There was a terrible pain behind my knee which just got worse and worse, and I was so breathless and tired. On holiday I took all the pain-killers you can think of and nothing worked."

By the time she went to see a specialist, Lindsey was shaking and very sick.

She went for tests to the RVI in Newcastle and was finally told the devastating news she had leukaemia.

"I cried and cried and cried," she says.

"I was devastated. It took me a long time to accept what was happening because I felt numb."

Lindsey's lovely dark hair fell out and tiny tot Jamie, the nephew she says is her "guiding star", cried in shock. She went through a bone marrow harvesting procedure which is now keeping the cancer at bay.

"I was told it would only work for a little while, but it is doing brilliantly," says Lindsey.

"What they did was clean my whole body after drawing off three bags of bone marrow fluid. Then after the radiotherapy was finished they replaced the fluid so it could build more cells.

"So far it's been great, but I have been told the cancer will return because it was very aggressive.

"It may take four months or four years, but then I will need a donor marrow transplant to save my life."

And that's why a session for prospective donors has been

organised for this Thursday at Tall Trees.

"I hope as many people as possible will turn up to give me and other sufferers on Teesside a better chance," she says.

Lindsey grew up in Redcar and went to West Redcar school. "I thought I only had a handful of friends, but when this happened I discovered I had loads.

"My manager Jane has been fantastic and all the people I work with.

"Then there's my family, my mum Jackie, my dad Albert, my step-mum Marie and mum's partner, Ian.

"The girls came up from work in a bunch to visit me and my family were there in shifts all the time."

Lindsey's colleagues at Saks were so impressed by her bravery that they raised pounds 1,725 for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust in a 13-hour trekathon.

Lindsey says she is shocked to be nominated for the Evening Gazette Community Champions award.

"I told my boss and she cried. But then she cries all the time about me!"

Lindsey knows that with the treatment she has had, there is a 5pc chance of the cancer returning.

"But only one in ten die after a donor marrow transplant," she says.

"I may not need it now, but I will one day and that's why the donor sessions are so important."

And she admits the whole experience has changed her attitude to life.

"I am much more laid-back than I was and much less inclined to criticise people," she says.

"I'm back to going out with my friends although my family have tried to stop me.

"I don't think I'm brave. I just had to get through it."

* The donor session is at Tall Trees, Yarm, on Thursday between 6pm and 9pm. To find out more about being a donor visit www.anthonynolan.org.co.uk or call 0901 8822 234.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 12, 2003
Words:901
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