I, along with 8 others, will be undertaking the 24 hour national three peak challenge on the 23rd-24th of July, raising money for MPN Voice! The reason why we will be fundraising for MPN Voice is because my best friend, Florence Smith, suffers with Polycythaemia Vera (PV), a form of MPN.
MPN Voice is a charity that funds research into myeloproliferative neoplasms and supports patients via education and advocacy and has an aim to raise £125,000 in 2016, to cover the costs of the next phase of the epidemiological study of myeloproliferative neoplasms in the United Kingdom. The goal of the study is to uncover information about the patterns of these cancers with the objective to develop better treatments for MPNs and ultimately, to find a cure.
An explanation of PV is that it is an aggressive and rare form of cancer, which attacks the body's bone marrow, destabilising the body’s mechanism for controlling blood cell levels where the body begins to produce high levels of ‘sticky’ blood cells. These 'sticky' cells end up clogging blood flow, putting those who suffer from PV at risk of heart attack, stroke and deep vein thrombosis. It not only affects your body, but also your kidneys and liver as well.
Day to day symptoms that Florence regularly has to deal with includes shadowy to a complete loss of vision, dizziness, light-headedness, extreme fatigue, headaches, lack of concentration, dramatic changes in body temperature, varying levels of nausea and panic/anxiety attacks. Not only this but she also has permanent damage to her pelvis as a result of a procedure performed wrong AND has to cope with regular venesections (needles put in your body to pump drugs in one side and to pump blood out the other). As a result of these venesections she is sometimes bedridden for days on end.
You would have thought that the above symptoms are surely enough. Think again. The cancer Florence suffers with, although controllable, is not curable (currently, hopefully your donations will turn this fact around) AND will only get worse with age, meaning more operations and an increased occurrence of symptoms.
Despite all these symptoms and effects, I have never known someone to be able to cope with something as devastating as this, as brilliantly as Florence. Seriously. Only ONE in 100,000 people suffer from an MPN and even less with PV. Florence is one of those very unlucky people. To further put it into context, generally those diagnosed with an MPN are older than 50. Florence is 20. Even with all this going on, she still has the ability to go out every once in a while and ALWAYS has a laugh and a smile on her face. I, and many others in a similar situation, would have long stopped being so positive and strong. I know she frequently struggles with balancing her life as a university student and the symptoms she suffers from as a result of the operations and the cancer, but she never, ever shows any sign of weakness. She is easily the strongest person I know and is an inspiration to myself and everyone who knows what she is going through.
Her strength has inspired myself and 8 others to participate in the 24-hour national three peak challenge, climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales in under 24 hours including driving. Despite this being very physically and mentally challenging, this is nothing compared with the daily challenge that Florence, and those who are unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with MPN, face.
We can change MPN and PV from being rare to non-existent. With your support that may just happen. So please, please, please donate and allow us to raise money for such a great cause. We will be eternally grateful for the support that you give to MPN and Florence.
This is for you Florence.
Thank you for reading,
Callum Ritchie and the Team!