You me and ‘the big C’ (South Africa)


Michaela Shoebotham is a 32-year old wife and mother of 2 gorgeous boys.  She is also a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer) patient having been diagnosed with cancer for the third time and after an 8-year long journey has recently undergone a stem cell transplant from a matched unrelated donor.


Here’s how it all began….


Until November 2010 Michaela was a healthy and very busy woman, working a full time job with two young children, Joshua and Oliver. She always loved adventure and the great outdoors and it was this passion that led her into the arms of Ian, her husband, a South African game ranger and wildlife photographer. Together they were living the dream, working and raising their children in the African bushveld when life suddenly took a turn for the worst.

Following a healthy pregnancy and a smooth delivery giving birth to her second child Oliver in April 2010, her health took a sudden and dramatic turn only three months after his birth. She lost 20kg in a matter of months, began losing her hair in huge clumps, went as white as snow, was having heart palpitations, night sweats and struggled to stay awake with her newborn.

At first, in September 2010, their family doctor thought she was anemic (which she was) but after more than a month on iron supplements her blood results had further deteriorated. She was immediately admitted to hospital where she stayed for a week undergoing test after test; scans, X-Rays and biopsies. It was terrifying. She was not only worried for her health but also for her husband and their (then) 3-year old and 6-month old boys at home without her. The diagnosis came back – Stage 3b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cancer. What now?! After 12 sessions of chemotherapy in 2011, she was briefly in remission (free of cancer) for 2 months.

In 2012, sadly the New Year did not start as well as she had hoped.  A scan revealed that the cancer has relapsed and the Lymphoma was again all over her neck, chest and abdomen.  She needed another, more intense, course of chemotherapy. Furthermore, she needed a bone marrow/ blood stem cell transplant. She was referred to a clinical haematologist in Pretoria and her first round of chemo started on the 17 January.  It was intense.  Four days of chemo makes up one session and she needed 4 sessions in total.. and this was just the start.

Michaela has been maintaining a blog for the past seven years, which has followed the roller coaster she and her family have been on through multiple chemotherapy treatments, radiation, an autologous stem cell transplant, experimental Immunotherapy treatment and now a transplanted from a matched unrelated donor. “The first time around, I wish I could have seen the reality of the process from a patient’s point of view, so I hope that my diary will provide insight to other patients, their families and friends,” says Michaela.

“Having had the disappointment of a matching donor withdrawing, two weeks before my original transplant date and not knowing whether I would find another match, I am deeply appreciative of the many donors that sign up voluntarily to help a stranger for whom they might be a match,” she concludes.

You could be the hope that others like Michaela are searching for. Help us save lives, become a blood stem cell donor today. Call The Sunflower Fund on 0800 12 10 82 or visit


The South African Bone Marrow Registry performed the donor search and facilitated the transplant. More info can be found here: SABMR



You can read Michaela’s detailed blog of the ups and downs and her fundraising journey to cover the exorbitant costs of treatment.

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