Selfless Little Sister Donates Bone Marrow To Save Older Sister’s Life, Putting Her Cancer In Remission

Amanda Fawcett

In an inspiring story of familiar love and medical triumph, a young girl for Sheffield, England, has achieved complete remission from a rare form of blood cancer, thanks to the lifesaving intervention of her even younger sister.

Ruby Leaning, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2020 at the age of six, faced a critical and urgent need for a bone marrow transplant.

This need arose after she collapsed on the school playground, a dramatic event that marked the onset of a grueling journey for her and her family.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that predominately affects children. While many cases of ALL can be managed with chemotherapy alone, Ruby’s particular strain was more aggressive, necessitating a bone marrow transplant in addition to chemotherapy.

The search for a compatible donor was fraught with anxiety and urgency, as the success of Ruby’s treatment hinged on finding a perfect match.

In a remarkable twist of fate, Ruby’s savior came from within her own family. Her two-year-old sister, Mabel, was identified as a perfect match for the bone marrow transplant.

Despite her tender age, Mabel’s bone marrow donation was crucial in Ruby’s fight against cancer. The transplant procedure, while complex, was a beacon of hope for the Leaning family, who were desperate for a lifeline.

The path to recovery was not straightforward. Ruby’s grandmother, Amanda Fawcett, shared with SWNS the myriad of challenges and emotional highs and lows the family endured.

She shared, “It’s every parent’s nightmare… I was in the room with her mom when we found out, and you just can’t take anything in at all. It was all just heart-shattering.”

The treatment protocol included not only the bone marrow transplant but also the administration of a specialized drug called blinatumomab, affectionately known as “blina.”

 This drug, a gentler form of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, has been instrumental in treating children with cancer with significantly less pain and fewer side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy.

“When Ruby’s leukemia did not respond well to chemotherapy, she received a relatively new drug called blinatumomab, which got her leukemia into remission and allowed us to perform her bone marrow transplant.”

Blina belongs to a class of drugs known as bispecific T-cell engagers (BiTEs). It works by directing the body’s immune cells to target and destroy cancer cells. The administration of blina involves a continuous infusion through a pump connected to a tube inserted into the patient’s arm, with the medication carried in a slim backpack.

This method allows for a more consistent and controlled delivery of the drug, which was initially successful in Ruby’s case, leading her medical team to proceed with the search for a bone marrow donor.

“We [weren’t] expecting [Mabel] to be a match at first, but thankfully she was, so we just couldn’t believe our luck. It was amazing – we were so thankful,” Fawcett told Fox News.

Amanda Fawcett

Ruby’s journey to remission was arduous. The process required her to undergo intensive chemotherapy to prepare her body for the transplant, followed by the transplant itself, and a critical recovery period.

During this time, Ruby’s immune system was particularly vulnerable, necessitating strict precautions to protect her from infections. The family’s support network, including friends, neighbors, and healthcare professionals, played a vital role in helping them navigate this challenging period.

In 2022, Ruby was declared cancer-free, a moment of immense relief and joy for the Leaning family. Mabel, despite her young age, gradually came to understand the significance of her donation. Her act of kindness has had a lasting impact on the family dynamics, with playful interactions becoming a testament to their bond.

Amanda Fawcett shared light-heartedly that Mabel, realizing her crucial role in Ruby’s recovery, often playfully insists on “borrowing” Ruby’s belongings, but she shares that’s it’s all just “fun and games.”

“She’s a happy, normal, and healthy 10-year-old who loves swimming, dancing, and piano lessons,” she shared.