"Only that person who has fallen can demonstrate the capability of STANDING UP. Fighting for what you know is going to work has no merit. A brave person isn't the one who has no fear, but the person who, in spite of being scared, keeps going on... AND FOR MANY YEARS."
At the start of 2012, at five in the afternoon, the Anxo Carro stadium in Lugo had a special match going on: Lugo against Celta B. Nonetheless, the players weren't the protagonists, nor were the results. The attention was all in Pablo Nanclares, a second division referee born in Oviedo 34 years ago, who was returning to his job after having overcome leukaemia.
Pablo Nanclares at his first match after his leukaemia
The same day that Pablo was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, in 2009, he was admitted in the Oviedo Hospital for more than a year. The only words that he repeated to his doctor were that he had to be able to referee next season and that they had to cure him quickly. After a year admitted, his only worry was: "I have to go back to referee even if it's only for one match".
In May 2009, after accompanying Enrique Mejuto to San Mamés as 4th referee in an Athletic-Mallorca match, Pablo Nanclares decided to give in: "I had been feeling tired for a while, I ate very little and had many nose bleeds. My sister forced me to run some tests". Two hours after taking the blood analysis, his parents received a call: Pablo had to be admitted urgently. After the fear came the certainty that something serious was going on, leukaemia. "They admitted me directly in an isolation room and the day after I was already beginning treatment with high intense chemotherapy. You always think that it isn't going to happen to you. When it happens, you realize that you depend on health for everything".
A month later, when they told him that he needed a bone marrow transplant to get cured, the uncertainty of finding a compatible donor added to the physical suffering. "Out of the family only the brothers have a real chance of being compatible, and there is only a 25% chance. Because my only sister wasn't compatible with me, the case was passed on to the REDMO (Spanish Bone Marrow Donor Registry) of the José Carreras Foundation, who began searching for a compatible donor out of 20 million people who are registered in the whole world".
At the end of 2009, a ray of light finally appeared in his room: "they told me that I had a 100% compatible donor, which is like finding a person in the world with exactly your same face." The protocol, which ensured anonymity for the donor, kept Nanclares from meeting his saviour: "they only told me that he was English and younger than me, which made me think a lot, because it means that he became a donor when he was very young".
After the necessary paper work, the team at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unity at the Hospital Central in Asturias did the transplant. It's "my second birthday". Everything that Pablo Nanclares had gone through until that moment -nausea, hair loss, fatigue- was nothing compared to how much he suffered the next seven days. "The chemotherapy had eliminated all of my stem cells and the new ones needed some time. For one week a lived artificially", says Nanclares. "There came a moment when not even the morphine calmed my pain, but the doctors told me I had to hold on because every day I would start to feel better. That is how it was. After one week I felt that the cells were working again and that my red blood cells were regenerating. The feeling I had was I was coming back to life.
Another date which I will never forget is December 16th 2009, when I left the hospital where I had spent the worst seven months of my life. A time where he had all the support from his parents, his sister Susana and his girlfriend Silvia, whom he married not long after. Apart from the obligatory isolation, during that time Pablo Nanclares decided he didn't want to see anyone else "because I was feeling very bad and, different from other illnesses, the visits wouldn't help".
Once out of the hospital, Pablo Nanclares had to overcome another challenge, reconstructing an organism badly beaten by a very strong treatment, which only people with very strong physical preparation can beat. Nanclares, who practiced athletics until he was 16 years old and referees since then, is aware that sport also saved his life.
If you want more information about the donation of bone marrow to help many leukaemia patients to have the opportunity of a cure, click HERE. Remember that the donation of bone marrow is altruistic, anonymous, and universal. If you register as a bone marrow donor, you could be making a donation to a person from anywhere in the world. If you want more information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our free phone number (in Spain) 900 32 33 34.
You could also become a member of the José Carreras Foundation. With a little amount you could help us to continue our research.