Our Q&A with Lauren and Sarah Murell from By Sarah London

Lauren was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) when she was just 23. After developing sensitive and fragile skin from chemotherapy and total body irradiation, Lauren’s sister and stem cell donor Sarah, developed plant oil formulations to soothe and rejuvenate Lauren’s skin. Today, they are the co-founders of By Sarah London, inspired by Lauren’s life after treatment.

Lauren, when did you first realise something wasn’t quite right and how did you come to get your diagnosis?

Lauren: I started to experience pains in my neck that came and went for a few months, then things took a sudden turn for the worst. I had a raging fever, drenching night sweats, extreme fatigue and became so unwell we had to call for an ambulance. In A&E they thought it could be glandular fever or scarlet fever, but the symptoms didn’t quite add up. A blood test was taken and the next day I was called back to the hospital: it was leukaemia and treatment had to start immediately. I was 23 years old, just a few weeks away from my final law school exams, but my life was shelved, and I was launched into extreme protective isolation in hospital and immediate chemotherapy.

How did treatment for Lauren’s leukaemia and the effects afterwards inspire the skincare brand By Sarah London?

Sarah: I saw how sensitive and fragile Lauren’s skin had become, ravaged by the effects of chemotherapy and total body irradiation (a very intense form of radiotherapy), her skin was shedding like a snake and was as sensitive as a new-born baby’s. I started developing plant oil formulations at the kitchen table to help repair her skin barrier and restore her skin microbiome, free from any irritating essential oils and fragrance. My formulations soothed and rejuvenated Lauren’s skin – and the seeds of By Sarah London were born.

Is there a message or review you’ve received from a customer that has really confirmed your belief in By Sarah London’s mission?

Lauren: We received such a heartfelt review from one of our customers, Stephanie, who had been having chemotherapy every two weeks for the past three years and her skin was very red, sore and inflamed. She started using the Hero Facial Oil and said it’s her “miracle oil” which has given her back hope. That’s the greatest gift we could wish for.

Lauren, if you had to give one piece of advice to anyone who is going through or has finished treatment for leukaemia – what would it be?

When you’re going through treatment, life can feel hard and unfair, and it can be too easy to fall into a negative downward spiral. The best antidote is to think of your mind like a fridge and fill it with the most nourishing, wholesome thoughts you can. It’s not to deny the harsh reality of cancer – look at it with radical acceptance and tell yourself to keep going, keep strong. I would stand in front of the mirror, with my hair falling out, and say that out loud. I often repeated my personal mantra: “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favour.” Find a mantra, or write your own, and come back to it whenever you need support or comfort.

Sarah, we know that a leukaemia diagnosis has a big impact on family, friends, and carers of those diagnosed too. Especially if you are a stem cell donor. If you had to give one piece of advice to a family member or close friend of someone diagnosed with leukaemia – what would it be?

Sarah: As Lauren’s life-saving stem cell donor, we really have been on this journey so closely as sisters. The nature of Lauren’s protective isolation meant that only myself and our parents could visit Lauren in hospital. We went every day and supported Lauren when she was at home too. It was really demanding, and it felt like I was living a parallel life when not at the hospital in Lauren’s world, but at work and commuting around London. My parents and I made sure that we were getting enough rest and eating well, so that we could support each other too. Cancer is a long journey and it’s important to take care of yourself too – and not to feel guilty about it.

And finally, where can we find By Sarah London?

Lauren: Come and say hello on social media @bysarahlondon and shop with us online at bysarahlondon.com. We’d love for you to enjoy 20% off our full collection with the code CARE20. Happy shopping!

Are you struggling with late effects from your cancer treatment?

We have a range of services and support available to you:

Late Effects Information Booklet

This booklet is designed to provide you with information about the late effects you may experience, what to expect and how they may be managed. If you need specific advice or are concerned about a particular late effect, please contact your medical team or Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Webinar about Survivorship and Late Effects of Acute Leukaemia

This webinar will explore potential long-term effects of acute leukaemia treatment, such as physical side effects and mental health issues. We will also provide tips on coping if you are affected by any of these issues and where to seek further support.

Helpline and support – 08088 010 444.

If you’re a patient struggling with late effects, you can contact us for the advice and support you need. Whether you want to talk to us about your late effects or just want to chat with someone who understands what you’re going through, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on freephone 08088 010 444.

Our helpline is FREE from landlines and most major mobile networks.

 

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