The girlfriend of a man who died from leukaemia today urged as many people as possible across Northern Ireland to sign up to the life saving bone marrow donor list.
In a truly inspirational story, Charlotte Gunning told how she has come to terms with the heartbreak of losing her boyfriend to a ravaging form of the disease by channeling her efforts into raising awareness of the Anthony Nolan Trust.
And the Belfast woman is currently putting the finishing touches to preparatio ns for a charity gala ball at the Stormont Hotel on May 17 which she hopes will raise much needed funds for, and awareness of, the life saving charity.
Michael Taylor died at just 23 after a brave battle against the disease. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in August 2002 and received over two years of intense treatment.
Charlotte explained: "It was devastating when Michael was diagnosed. I was in complete shock and was terrified, but he was the positive one and said that we would get through it.
"We had to pick between a couple of treatments and Michael went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In between treatments we had a great time together and went travelling a lot. We went to Paris three times. It was Michael's favourite. We had so many happy times.
"He went into remission and at that stage we were convinced it was gone. Michael went back to university but on his first day he wasn't feeling well and he went to the doctor and they told him it was very serious. They told him his only option was a bone marrow transplant.
"We had the mindset that everything was going to be fine. We couldn't think of any other option. No one in Michael's family was a match so we turned to the worldwide bone marrow register but I didn't have a clue that we wouldn't find a match there either. I just always thought they would find one and then they told us he only had a few days left. It was only at that stage that I realised I was going to lose him."
Refusing to dwell on her grief, Charlotte continued: "Michael was a joker. He was a big guy. He was always laughing, having fun and playing jokes. He was also very romantic. We had such a good time together and I like to remember that and not feel bad.
"The first year after he died was awful but I had a lot of support from friends and family and I'm still close to Michael's family. I have also got a new boyfriend called Sean, who is helping me organise the formal. He has been a brilliant support to me with everything in my past and has helped make my life happy again.
"He and some of his friends have joined the Anthony Nolan register as well. It's important to raise the profile of the charity and get as many people as possible to get involved, either by signing up or helping to raise funds.
"After Michael was diagnosed he did an abseil off Scrabo Tower and I know he would be really pleased about the work I am doing now.
"I'm on the register and I would love to be called up to donate. It is an easy and fairly pain free procedure and you know you are helping to save someone's life."
There are 16,000 people worldwide in need of a bone marrow transplant but because individual genetic make-up is so varied the chance of finding a suitable donor can be slim.
Many searches for patients are unsuccessful a bone marrow donor whose tissue type matches theirs could mean the difference between life and death.
For the first time, an annual fund-raising event for the Anthony Nolan Trust is taking place in Northern Ireland, supported by the Belfast Telegraph.
The Emmerdale Extravaganza will take place at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra for an action-packed day of fund-raising activities on June 7.
The 40 Emmerdale stars will jet in to Northern Ireland for the event followed by a glitzy dinner dance in the Culloden Hotel.
More information about the gala event being organised by Charlotte, email email@example.com.