Man whose wife had lymphoma donates bone marrow to save a stranger

Man whose wife had lymphoma donates bone marrow to save a stranger
LOVE: Mr Muhammad Nurfarhan Mislam and his wife Ms Siti Faizah Abdul Latiff were married in November last year after she completed her medical treatment.

Mr Muhammad Nurfarhan Mislam felt helpless when his then-fiancee was diagnosed with stage two lymphoma two years ago.

The frustration of not being able to do much to help her cope with the illness encouraged him to agree to donate his bone marrow to a complete stranger with a blood condition, when the call came.

"I felt so helpless and useless when I couldn't do anything to help my wife," the 29-year-old training executive at a telecommunications company told The New Paper.

"No one else should go through what she did and if I can help in any way possible, I would do it."

Ms Siti Faizah Abdul Latiff, 30, discovered her illness in August 2013 in the midst of the couple's wedding preparations.

She did not require a transplant but went through chemotherapy.

As she struggled with hair loss, weight gain and a dip in self-confidence, Mr Muhammad Nurfarhan could only offer her moral support, love and strength.

Ms Siti Faizah, a civil servant, went into remission after her treatment and they got married in November last year.

The call from the Bone Marrow Donor Programme came in August last year, asking if Mr Muhammad Nurfarhan would donate to someone who was a match.

He and his wife had donated blood at work back in 2008.

Chances of finding a match, according to the programme's website, is about 1 in 20,000 within the same racial group.

After a meeting to discuss the procedures, Mr Muhammad Nurfarhan agreed to be a donor.

'NO PAIN'

He put aside his fear of blood and sat through a six-hour peripheral blood stem cell harvest procedure.

"It was fast and all I felt was a prick on my jugular vein. There was no pain at all," he recalled.

All he knows about the patient he donated to is that she is a woman in her 40s. He hopes to meet her one day when she is better.

Given the chance, he has no qualms about donating organs in the future.

"The whole experience taught me that life is very precious. I've lost friends before and if I had lost my wife, it would have been much, much worse. If I could help save a life, someone's father, mother, wife, why not?" he said.

He also hopes that more willing donors would step up in future.

"When I gave my (blood) sample, I didn't think it would have any impact. But after going through everything with my wife, it's fulfilling to think I helped someone live a longer life.

"It's funny to think that I was a match in love with my wife, and also a match for someone else."

'It took a while to sink in, but I didn't cry'

After spotting a big lump near her left collarbone, Ms Siti Faizah Abdul Latiff, went to the hospital for a test.

Before that, she had read up on the possible causes of the lump. But her worst fears were confirmed in August 2013 when she was diagnosed with stage two lymphoma.

"I was crushed. But I remember the news took a while to sink in and I didn't cry," she said.

The 30-year-old civil servant went through her first cycle of chemotherapy within a month and completed eight cycles.

Each treatment session, she said, was about five hours long and she had to take about four types of medication.

Many side effects came with the treatment including hair loss, weakness and a 20kg weight gain due to water retention.

As a result, she became frustrated and her morale dipped.

Her last chemotherapy cycle was last February, after which she has been going for routine check-ups.

PILLAR OF SUPPORT

She relied heavily on her then-fiance, Mr Muhammad Nurfarhan Mislam, as her pillar of support through the tough period.

As a distraction, Ms Siti Faizah also threw herself into preparations for their wedding last November.

Her illness worried both their families as the big day approached.

For Mr Muhammad Nurfarhan, his grandmother had urged him to rethink his decision to marry her.

Ms Siti Faizah added: "One of my aunts had also asked if he was going to leave me since I was sick."

But the pair fought through it together, even going ahead with a 21km run at the Standard Chartered Marathon last month.

"I was breathless through most of the run, but he held my hand all the way and it felt like a major accomplishment when I finished," she said.

She continues to maintain an active lifestyle with activities such as yoga, zumba and kickboxing. She also goes for runs on weekends.

"The most important thing is to remain positive. There is always that fear that it will come back, but I try not to think about it," she said.


This article was first published on Jan 7, 2015.
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