Student Spotlight: Liverpool Marrow Society

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two marathon runners with medals in front of the Arc de Triomphe
(L-R) Jemima Kelleher and Sara Shahi

Student Spotlights pass the mic to our student doctors, to hear their take on their School experience and shine the light on a particular role, team or pathway through the School of Medicine.

Year Five Student Doctors Sara Shahi and Jemima Kelleher ran the Paris Marathon on Sunday 2nd April to raise money for Liverpool Marrow Society, the student branch of the Anthony Nolan Charity for which they are President and Volunteer Coordinator.

“It was our first marathon and was definitely a challenge, but we had an amazing day (particularly enjoying the cheese and wine after reaching the finish line)!”

Sara and Jemima have absolutely smashed their fundraising target, raising nearly £3,000 for the charity, and you can still contribute via their JustGiving page (link).

What motivated you to get involved with Liverpool Marrow Society and the Anthony Nolan organisation?

Both: Anthony Nolan undertake life-saving research into stem cell therapies and bone marrow transplants and co-ordinate the stem cell register to match patients in need with potential lifesaving donors.

Marrow groups exist across universities in the UK, and we restarted the society here at Liverpool last year with the help of our friends.

Our main aims are to raise money for Anthony Nolan, encourage sign ups to the stem cell register and raise awareness about their work and the transplant process.

Sara: When I started at Liverpool, my dad had just received a stem cell transplant from his brother for myelodysplastic syndrome, which was transforming into AML. Thankfully, he is now doing incredibly well, but I know not everyone is as lucky to find a donor within their family, if at all.

Jemima: I’ve been on the Stem Cell Register for almost a decade but had never been called up as a match. Then, in January, in the throes of training for the marathon and running Liverpool Marrow, I got the call that I’d been matched to a patient!

I’m still awaiting my potential donation date, but it’s so exciting to experience first-hand the real impact that that our campaigning and fundraising can have.

What do your roles in the society entail? What are you most proud of having achieved this academic year?

Sara: As President, I liaise between the committee, the Guild and Anthony Nolan to make sure the society is meeting its goals. I also help to co-ordinate the committee and motivate our members to get involved with society activities. I’m proud of how the society has grown this year and invite students to form a new committee to take over for next year, as most of us are graduating. We’ve also managed to recruit 45 people to the stem cell register since September and hopefully that number will grow by June!

Jemima: As Volunteer Coordinator, I get the chance to recruit and work with new Marrow Volunteers. I help to train up new volunteers, spread the word about Marrow and get people involved with the charity.

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come from being just a small group of friends running the society, to having a whole new generation of Marrowers taking over.

I’m really proud of how much we’ve achieved in just a year, and the money raised for the marathon was just the cherry on top of the cake!

Both: We are really looking forward to our Annual General Meeting (AGM) which will take place Thursday 4th May, 6.30 – 8.30pm in the Cinema Room at the Guild. See our Instagram (link) for more details and pop along for free pizza!

a marathon runner alongside the River Seine

What made you sign up to the Paris Marathon?

Jemima: I grew up in Belgium, with a marathon running dad and he had run the Paris Marathon a few times before, as it was so close to home. He and my eldest sister signed up to run it this year, and I thought, why not join them! I’d never undertaken such a long distance before, the furthest I’d done was the Cardiff Half Marathon back in 2018 but thought it would be a great challenge - 26 miles in my 26th year!

Sara: Having trained for a 10km last year, I wanted to continue running but needed a goal to work towards. I’m currently learning French and wanted to visit Paris, so when I heard Jemima was doing the marathon I asked to join as I thought it would help tie the two goals together. Although I think doing a boat tour of the city instead may be easier next holiday…!

a marathon runner alongside the River Seine

How did you undertake marathon training alongside your studies?

Jemima: It certainly wasn’t easy, finding the time to go on the long runs in the middle of our last medical school exams definitely had its challenges. Sitting my final written exam and going straight into a 30km training run from it was a bit surreal, but it all gave me a discipline I didn’t know I could achieve.

Sara and I living together definitely helped, we could hold each other accountable to hit our training goals, it also helped to have someone else as exhausted and in pain as you in the house!

Sara: It was a very busy March as we had a host of final exams to take.

Though it was a challenge, I really enjoyed the structure that the training involved. It helped to organise my time, which in turn aided revision planning.

It also helped that we were both running the marathon and going through final year together, which definitely provided support!

two women raise a glass after completing marathon

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