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She's a Tough Mudder

Leukaemia survivor Celeste O'Brien has capped off a stellar week after completing the Tough Mudder obstacle course and celebrating her first wedding anniversary.

SOPHIE MALCOLM January 22, 2013 4:50am

Leukaemia survivor Celeste O’Brien celebrated her first wedding anniversary and then completed Tough Mudder.


The past week has been a good one for Celeste O’Brien.

Celeste, 29, completed the Tough Mudder obstacle course at the weekend and on January 14 celebrated her first wedding anniversary.

She said completing Tough Mudder would have seemed almost impossible three months ago.

The date of her wedding anniversary also marked three years since she received a life-saving stem cell transplant.

In January 2009, Celeste noticed she had cold and flu-like symptoms, was exhausted and had a rash on her hands.

A visit to the doctor and a series of tests revealed she had acute myeloid leukaemia, a form of cancer that starts inside the bone marrow.

She said doctors labelled her condition as ‘‘catastrophic’’.

After four months of treatment at Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital, she returned home to Shepparton and to work. She relapsed in October that year, triggering a bout of depression and another round of treatment.

Her twin brother Christopher had been nominated as a match for a stem cell transplant (commonly known as a bone marrow transplant), which was scheduled for January 2010.

‘‘I’m a very positive person anyway, so when I relapsed, something turned, something changed,’’ Celeste said. ‘‘My brother Chris is my best mate ... so it’s like a part of me on some crazy sort of level, knew I needed his cells to keep me alive.’’

The transplant worked and after a year of hospitalisation and continuing treatments, she began to work towards her goals.

Completing Tough Mudder was just one of those.

‘‘I’m the only person known to have had a stem cell transplant ... to do it,’’ she said. ‘‘When I first got diagnosed, if I didn’t get treatment ASAP, I would have died in two weeks.

‘‘I was as sick as it gets.’’

She says the support of those close to her and her trainer Troy Tremellen was vital in preparing her for the challenge.

‘‘I’m probably in a better physical shape now than when I got sick,’’ she said.

Another goal was to help others.

She volunteers at the Leukaemia Foundation and The Alfred hospital.

Celeste also has her own Facebook support group, Survivorship — The New Normal, for cancer survivors and their families and friends.

‘‘I’m an extremely positive person and I like to encourage people ... people ring me and say, ‘Look my friends been sick, they’ve got cancer, they’re in a bit of a rut and they need some support,’ so I go around and help them,’’ Celeste said.

‘‘I think this is why I got sick, this was what I was meant to do with my life ... it all happens for a reason.

‘‘With just support and encouragement you can do whatever you want.’’

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