A mother from Fort William is calling for more people to sign up as potential stem cell donors after her daughter was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer and told she urgently needs a stem cell transplant. 

Chloe Purvis, who is just nine years old, was diagnosed with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), a rare type of blood cancer, at the end of last year. The average age for someone to be diagnosed with MDS is 75 years old, so it’s extremely unusual for a child to receive this diagnosis.

Mother makes public plea for more stem cell donors

Chloe’s mum, Sarah, took her to see her GP at the end of November when she noticed that Chloe was getting particularly out of breath and was feeling more tired than usual.

Sarah said:

“Chloe has always been very active, but she mentioned that she couldn’t keep up with her friends in the playground. Originally her GP didn’t seem too concerned and thought she might be anaemic, as she has been anaemic in the past.”

After a blood test, Sarah received a phone call from their GP asking her to take Chloe to Belford Hospital for a repeat blood test. Chloe’s blood count was so low, they thought her original results might be a mistake. However, the repeat test produced the same results and Chloe was immediately sent in an ambulance to Inverness.

Sarah said:

“The doctors didn’t give too much away at first and generally Chloe felt well in herself. However, the next day we were sent to Aberdeen where we were told that they thought she might have leukaemia.”

Medical staff at the hospital in Aberdeen carried out a number of tests and a week later results confirmed that Chloe had MDS.

Speaking about receiving Chloe’s diagnosis, Sarah said:

“It was so overwhelming, a huge shock. You don’t ever expect to be told that your child has cancer, you don’t ever want to be told that.

“But Chloe’s been so amazing through it all, she’s never been scared or upset. When she was told that her hair would fall out she just said, ‘it’s fine it will grow back.”

Chloe is now having treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, which is almost a three-hour drive away from the family home. Chloe’s dad, Lea, will often take her to her appointments while Sarah looks after her other three young children, four-year-old Isla and two-year-old twins Charlotte and Elsie. All three of Chloe’s sisters have been tested to see if they could be suitable to donate their stem cells to Chloe but unfortunately, none of them are a match.

Anthony Nolan has searched the worldwide stem cell register for a special stranger who could save Chloe’s life and they have found two potential matches, who will now go through further testing to confirm whether they are the best possible match.

The community have been coming out to show their support for Chloe, and the Fort William Football Club recently got in contact with Sarah, to let her know that the whole first team has signed up to the Anthony Nolan register.

Sarah said:

“You don’t hear about Anthony Nolan enough so it’s important to encourage more people to sign up.

“I think signing up to the register is something that could catch on with other teams and hopefully, football teams, shinty teams, hockey teams and other athletes from around the country will  follow suit.”

Amy Bartlett, Regional Development Manager for Scotland, said:

“While it’s heartbreaking to hear that Chloe will need to have a transplant, it’s great to hear that potential matches have been found.

“Every day, five people, like Chloe, will start their search for a matching stranger who might save their life, but sadly not everyone can find a lifesaving match. Joining the Anthony Nolan register is a simple process, it’s just a cheek swab but it could change the life of someone like Chloe.

“We’re particularly calling on young men aged 16-30 to consider joining the Anthony Nolan register as young men provide 50% of all stem cell donations but make up just 18% of our register.”