Norwich woman with rare form of leukaemia is first in the UK to have double umbilical cord stem cell treatment
PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:23 14 April 2019
A Norwich Zumba teacher who is battling a rare form of leukaemia has become the first woman in the UK to have stem cell treatment using umbilical cords.
Lucia Alba, 46, was diagnosed with the cancer last year, after first putting symptoms down to being active and the hot weather.
Intensive rounds of chemotherapy had not worked, and Mrs Alba even contracted sepsis.
Ms Alba’s mother, Mimi, flew over from Mexico to be with her daughter when she was first diagnosed.
But the sepsis caused her mother so much worry, when doctors told her her daughter might not survive, she had a heart attack and had to undergo emergency surgery, costing Ms Alba’s family £6,000.
MORE: Zumba teacher keeps spirits high by exercising in hospital while undergoing treatment for leukaemia
However Mrs Alba, who lives with husband Stuart and sons Charlie and Patrick in Thorpe Marriott, pulled through. And she was waiting for a bone marrow transplant while hooked up to a machine 24 hours a day - and over the festive period there seemed to be hope.
“They told her there was a possible match over Christmas,” Afton Ward, Mrs Alba’s best friend, said. “But further tests found the likelihood was her body would reject it. She had the call and they said ‘look, we’re going to stop looking for a donor, we’re going to use an umbilical cord’.”
It is believed Ms Alba is the first woman in the UK to have a stem cell transplant using the blood drained from two umbilical cords. After an intense dose of chemotherapy, which destroys cancer cells but also healthy cells, doctors can infuse healthy blood-forming cells into the body to replace the ones killed by the treatment.
Ms Ward said umbilical cords from America and Albania had been a match for Ms Alba. She said: “In February she went into Addenbroke’s, the doctor called it the most intensive treatment they can give anybody of chemo and radiotherapy. She had the stem cell transplant on March 3, and since then she’s been recovering in Addenbroke’s, and healthy cells should very, very slowly be beginning to grow.”
Ms Ward said she was “hopeful” about her friend’s progress, but admitted it had hit the normally energetic mother-of-two hard. She said: “I think she’s really fed up now and it’s hard being away from her boys.”
But back home a raft of fundraising efforts were going on to help support Ms Alba, including a Zumba Masterclass with Lukasz Grabowski on June 22, from 6pm, at The Narthex in Norwich.