Teacher feels ‘unbelievably lucky’ after brother saved her life with transplant

Kate Corney was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014 and is currently in remission.

Danielle Desouza
Tuesday 29 November 2022 15:38 GMT
Kate Corney with her brother Sam Corney (University Hospital Southampton/Kate Corney/PA)
Kate Corney with her brother Sam Corney (University Hospital Southampton/Kate Corney/PA)

A history teacher diagnosed with advanced blood cancer has said she feels “unbelievably lucky” her brother saved her life through a stem cell transplant.

Kate Corney, 35, who lives in Emsworth, Hampshire, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014 and underwent six months of chemotherapy, but that failed to work as hoped and doctors then recommended a stem cell transplant.

However, this option also came with complications – including a 10% chance of Ms Corney developing a life-threatening condition.

The “best hope of a good outcome” relied upon a sibling being a suitable match.

Despite there being a mere 25% chance of this happening, luck appeared in the form of Ms Corney’s younger brother Sam Corney, who donated his stem cells without hesitation.

Ms Corney, who is now in remission, said: “I feel unbelievably lucky to have found a donor and there was something extra special in that person being my younger brother.

“It’s impossible to put into words how grateful I am to Sam and to the incredible transplant team at University Hospital Southampton for giving me my life back.”

Ms Corney added that her younger sister Rosie was also tested but she was not a match.

Her transplant took place on June 2015 – 10 days after being admitted to University Hospital Southampton.

It was a very tough time, but the team looking after me were amazing and got me through it. Gradually things started to pick up and take hold and all of a sudden there was talk about me going home

Kate Corney

“From the very first moment I met the team there was just something about the way they spoke, the way they presented the information to me – I knew I was in very capable hands and trusted them immediately,” she said.

“It was a very tough time, but the team looking after me were amazing and got me through it. Gradually things started to pick up and take hold and all of a sudden there was talk about me going home.”

Mr Corney said he was “really happy” to have been able to help his sister.

“It wasn’t painful donating, but it did take quite a long time; almost five hours,” he added.

“When my donation was complete, I had given 20.5 million stem cells. Kate only needed five million for her transplant, so it was great to know that by donating so many, I was giving her an excellent chance of a cure.”

Although her stem cell transplant was a success, Ms Corney admitted she had not sought medical help as early as she should when she first started noticing symptoms.

She recalled: “I’d known for a little while that something wasn’t right. I was experiencing extreme tiredness and weight loss. I initially didn’t realise how ill I was, as all teachers are exhausted by the end of term.

“I knew very little about cancer but, with the terror that was building, I thought it was best not to tell anybody and just deal with it on my own.

“The concept of being properly ill was not something that I or anyone my age was used to seeing or dealing with and I left it super-late.”

This week marks 20 years of University Hospital Southampton delivering bone marrow and stem cell transplants.

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