A GRANDAD from Kidderminster has thanked an anonymous donor whose stem cells helped him to survive a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia.

Delivery driver Paul Smith was diagnosed with T cell prolymphocytic leukaemia in March last year after months of suffering with a sore throat which the 59-year-old compared to "swallowing razor blades".

He said: "It started around Christmas last year as a suspected virus that I just couldn’t shake off.

"My throat was so sore it felt as if I was swallowing razor blades, then my eyes swelled up. I had to put bags of frozen peas on my eyes before I went to work because it looked like I’d been in a fight.”

The symptoms worsened until a GP spotted a visible lump in Paul's throat and sent him for an ultrasound and biopsy, which showed nothing sinister, but doctors decided to remove the lump anyway.

However, blood tests ahead of the operation showed alarming results.

“My white cells were sky-high," said Paul. "So high the doctors and nurses were astonished that I was still walking around apparently alright.

"They sat me down and told me it was almost certainly leukaemia. I was so shocked. It was something I’d never even thought about."

Paul's cancer turned out to be a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia. He needed both chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to boost his chances of survival.

Four of Paul's brothers and a sister were tested to see if they were suitable donors, but only one of them was a match and, at 69 years old, he was considered too old for the procedure.

Thankfully, within weeks, a match was found for Paul on the bone marrow register.

Ledbury Reporter:

"All I knew was that it was a 22-year-old Polish man who was giving me this chance of life," said Paul.

"On October 24 last year, his stem cells were flown in from Poland and transplanted into me at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham."

Thanks to the operation, Paul was able to enjoy Christmas at home with his wife Jane, daughters Caylie and Leah and two-year-old grandson Charlie.

Paul would like to thank the anonymous donor who saved his life, but may never get the chance to do so face to face.

He said: “I would like to thank him personally for his amazing gift, but I’m not allowed to get in touch for at least two years, and even then only if he consents, so I may never be able to thank him properly."

So instead, Paul and his family are getting behind the Cancer Research UK Unity Band campaign for World Cancer Day on February 4 to help raise money and awareness and show solidarity with people across the world who are diagnosed with the disease.

Paul said: "Supporting World Cancer Day and wearing a wristband is my way of saying thank you in a visible way.

Ledbury Reporter:

"My chances of beating cancer have been boosted because of this incredible young man. What better way to show my gratitude?”

He added: “I hope everyone who hears my story will get involved. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance and I want to make the most of it by making every moment count.

"That includes helping to raise vital awareness and funds. It’s thanks to research I’m still here today, enjoying spending time with the people who are so dear to me.

“So I want everyone in Worcestershire to show their support on World Cancer Day and help Cancer Research UK to tackle this devastating disease.

"Just by wearing a Unity Band we can all make a real difference to people with cancer.”

To get a Unity Band and make a donation, visit the Cancer Research UK shop in Bromsgrove, Droitwich or Worcester or go online at cruk.org/worldcancerday.