Woman’s Day (Australia)
SAVED BY A LONGLOST RELATIVE!
After tracing her ancestry back to the UK, Regina found an unlikely cure for her cancer
Regina Batten was bursting with excitement as her wedding day approached. Having just celebrated her 30th with daughters Amber, now 16, twins Olivia and Matilda, eight, and fiance Sam, tying the knot was the icing on the cake.
But something niggled at Regina, from Dubbo, NSW.
“I’d always been fit and healthy when I started noticing lots of bruises on my legs and I felt exhausted all the time,” the 35-year-old, who now works in finance, tells Woman’s Day.
After visiting her GP and being prescribed a short course of antibiotics, Regina felt no better, and after a blood test, her doctor explained she had leukaemia.
Regina was eventually airlifted to Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for specialist treatment. On what should have been her wedding day, the brave mum started gruelling bouts of chemo for her rare type of blood cancer, AML (acute myeloid leukaemia).
Regina and Sam had a small wedding ceremony at home between rounds of chemo and while soon after she was told her body was free of cancer, a year after her September 2017 diagnosis, her health once again took a turn for the worse. This time she was told an allogenic stem cell transplant would ultimately save her life.
Efforts to find a match among family and on the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry proved futile until a possible fit came from a surprising source.
“It wasn’t until we traced our ancestry back and found we had family from England on my dad’s side that there was hope,” says Regina.
It was discovered that stem cells in the umbilical cords of two of Regina’s long-lost relatives when they were babies had been stored for decades. The frozen cells were flown from the UK to Australia and doctors found they were both viable matches for a transplant.
Incredibly, Regina, now 35, still has no idea who the relatives are or if they’re still alive. But in December 2018, she had a double cord blood transplant, which her body accepted.
About to celebrate five years in remission this year, Regina hopes to one day track down her cord blood donors so she can thank them for saving her life.
Sadly, she and Sam have now split, but Regina is thankful for all she’s learned along the way. “You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be,” she says.