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Sister a stem cell saviour

Nicki McLennan is showing her sister Taylah the ultimate Christmas generosity - a stem cell transplant to help Taylah's ongoing cancer battle.

ALEXANDRA BOLKAS December 6, 2013 5:37am

Tayla McLennan will be in hospital this Christmas as she is receiving a stem cell transplant from her sister Nicki Nicki and Tayla McLennan


It is not every day a person spends Christmas having a stem cell transplant.

But it is nothing unusual for Tayla McLennan, 20, who has spent almost two years on a journey of health highs and lows.

Ms McLennan was 19 when she noticed sustained pain in her underarm.

Three months later, the pain had grown into a 10cm lump.

Doctors confirmed an aggressive form of non-hodgkins lymphoma was the cause.

‘‘I handled the first part really well — I was scared, but I promised myself from day one I wouldn’t be negative about it,’’ Ms McLennan said.

‘‘It wasn’t going to solve anything.’’

Six cycles of chemotherapy and a month of radiation later, Ms McLennan had a brief respite from treatment before being told the cancer had been found in her spleen.

She had her spleen removed, more rounds of chemotherapy and an autologous stem cell transplant.

This was where her own stem cells were used to replace stem cells damaged by high doses of chemotherapy.

More cancerous cells were then found in her shoulder, spine and neck which prompted more rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.

Sister and fitness trainer Nicki McLennan, 22, said donating her stem cells was never a question in her mind.

Six months ago she got tested to see if she was stem cell match — luckily she was.

‘‘(Tayla’s) absolutely the strongest person I’ve ever met, she’s powered through this year and a half in a way that I don’t think many people could,’’ she said.

‘‘I just know (it was the right thing to do), maybe it was always going to be this hard for her, so it’s up to me.’’

Tayla said the hardest part of the long ordeal was being unable go out with her friends and living with constant lethargy.

Tayla said she was thankful of her sister’s support.

‘‘I love her for it, I’m very thankful and glad she’s willing to put up with the needles,’’ she said.

‘‘She’s my best friend, my sister and I love her more than anything.

‘‘I know needles scare her, so for her to do it for me without question is just amazing.’’

Her friends have also rallied around her.

‘‘My friends have been the best, they visit me in hospital and give me presents,’’ she said.

‘‘I need to extend my bedroom.’’

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