Just a few weeks ago 17-year-old Robbie Eddles was enjoying being back at school and basking in the fact he'd made it onto the basketball team.
Now, he's bravely fighting cancer in a Durban hospital bed, while waiting for a bone marrow match — with people from all over the world rallying behind him.
Robbie was diagnosed with leukaemia for the third time about three weeks ago, and this time his bone marrow is 90% leukemic.
He faced his first battle with the blood cancer when he was just five but conquered it and two years later went into remission after what his aunt Kerry Moller (48) describes as “aggressive chemotherapy”.
The second time, Kerry tells us, Robbie was 10 but was in remission at 12 after two more years of chemo. He was clean of the disease for almost five years.
"They always say the magic marker is five years. We were just short of five years when he relapsed," Kelly tells us. “It’s not fair.”
Robbie's mother, Colleen Eddles (57) — who, along with her husband Mike (60) currently aren't able to speak to the media — suspected that Robbie had relapsed when he returned from a 10-day school exchange programme in India last December.
“He came back from that exchange very tired and my sister phoned me about four times saying she has a gut feeling [the cancer was back] because he’s very tired,” says Kerry, who's Colleen's younger sister.
Robbie has now been in an isolation room for three weeks, but the plucky Grade 11 Clifton College learner isn’t fighting alone — after news of his hospitalisation broke people from all over the country registered to become bone marrow donors in an attempt to find a match for Robbie.
The support, Kerry says, has been overwhelmingly positive. After making her Facebook account public and sharing the boy’s story she’s received more than 16 000 messages from all over the world.
On 7 February, Clifton College hosted a drive that saw many pupils signing up. Durban Girls’ College will also host a Valentine’s Day Drive called #Loving Robbie #Robbieswarriors on 14 February.
Kerry says attempts to find a donor started back when Robbie was first diagnosed and so far they’ve haven’t found a match from the millions of registered donors worldwide, including the 77 000 people on the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).
“The SABMR is linked to the international registry," Kerry says. "Although our registry is pitiful — it has to be bigger because as South Africans we have a unique gene pool — we do have access to millions of donors from overseas. Sadly, out of all those millions Robbie still hasn't found a match — he has a very unique [human leukocyte antigen] protein.
“Don’t let that detract from the fact that South Africans need to rally, because our bone marrow registry will work for our population.”
Kerry says Robbie wants his legacy to be that he helped the registry to grow.
“He's the bravest, wisest little soul.”
You can register to become a bone marrow donor if you're...
- Between 18 and 45 years old
- Committed to helping others
- In good health (not at risk of contracting hepatitis or other sexually transmitted infections)
- Over 50kg and have a body mass index (BMI) of <40
- A regular blood donor (preferable but not necessary)
- Prepared to remain on the SABMR until you’re 60.
Courtesy of www.westerncape.gov.za