Brave Rhosddu woman loses fight for survival


Rhian Waller

A WREXHAM woman lost her battle for her life less than a year on from a major stem-cell transplant.

Nigel Williams, 51, paid tribute to his wife, Helen 52, of Rhosddu, a year on from of a major operation which saw her undergo a complete bone marrow transplant at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

Helen died on May 26. She suffered complications following the treatment, which had freed her from leukemia.

Mr Williams said: “She won the battle but sadly lost the war.”

Mrs Williams, who previously worked at Wrexham Sainsbury’s store, spoke to the Leader as she underwent the procedure in 2013 after discovering that she’d been walking around with undiagnosed leukemia for up to 18 months.

The transplant worked, leaving Helen cancer-free but vulnerable, as extensive chemotherapy had damaged her immune system.

Over the following year, Helen fought MRSA, sepsis and graft-versus-host disease, which saw the new stem cells attack her body.

Her tragic death came last month.

Mr Williams said: “She was doing well but, unfortunately, she just went downhill within a week.

“We took her into the Maelor Hospital on the Sunday and they tried everything they could.

“The following Thursday she was sitting up in bed laughing and joking, but then her body started shutting down.”

Mr Williams praised his brave wife and the medics, friends and family who supported her courageous fight. He said: “She was always so positive. She was 4ft 11in, but she had a stature 7ft tall.

“She would help anybody, even people she didn’t know.

“All through her treatment she was online, going to CML (chronic myeloid leukaemia) pages and tutoring people going through the same thing.

“She’d be on the phone late at night talking to people from America to help them through it.

“After she died, we found she’d written little cards to family members, saying ‘you are my guardian angel’. She organised and paid for her own funeral. She was just that sort of person.”

Mrs Williams had regarded the treatment, which replaced her faulty stem cells with entirely new ones, as a type of rebirth.

Mr Williams said: “She said it made you start again like a newborn baby.

“I found a mark on the calendar for June 14, which she’d put on there saying ‘one year old’.

“But she never made it that far.”

Friends and family rallied around Mr and Mrs Williams, during the treatment and after her death. Mr Williams said: “We couldn't have got as far as we did without them.

“Everyone has been brilliant. Our friends have been so supportive. Sometimes you feel so alone, but you aren't."

Mrs Williams leaves behind her husband, daughter Catherine, 25, her son Anthony, 29, his partner Sara and their children Bailey, eight, and Summer five.

Mr Williams said: “Helen loved her grandchildren so much.

“Her own parents Evelyn and Clarence Guest and her brother and sister-in-law Gareth and Michelle Guest have been great.

“Our daughter Catherine has been incredible. “She signed up for the Race for Life before Helen became very ill. Her funeral was on June 6, two days before the race and I asked Catherine if she really wanted to run.

“She said ‘I have to’. She carried a sign which said ‘In memory of my mum’, and she raised £500.”

Mr Williams also praised staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital and at the High Dependency Unit at Wrexham Maelor, where his wife spent her last days.

He said: “We've been wondering if the treatment was worth it, but the drugs she was given before the transplant weren’t working and for all we know, it bought her that much longer.

"We had the time to take a few short holidays in our caravan on the Welsh coast, which she loved.

“She was grateful to be given the chance."

See full story in the Leader

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