21 Dec 2023Awareness raising

‘It was the worst Christmas of my life’: Georgia Harrison reflects on ‘traumatising’ loss in charity’s Christmas Appeal

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TV personality Georgia Harrison is supporting Leukaemia UK’s Christmas Appeal to help fund research into kinder, more effective treatments for leukaemia, after losing her childhood best friend to the devastating form of blood cancer in December 2021. 

‘Cenk was so full of life,’ remembers Georgia, 29. ‘So cheeky, so fun-loving. He just had this incredible way about him – everywhere he went people just loved him. He had the biggest heart.’ 

Georgia, who first met Cenk Fahri as a teenager at high school, spoke to the charity Leukaemia UK in support of their annual Christmas Appeal. She said: ‘Cenk was diagnosed when I was 17. I remember being in my Dad’s house in Marbella, and when he rang to tell me the news, I was just devastated. I couldn’t stop crying. At age 17, you don’t expect to be told that your best friend has cancer. Being so young, I didn’t know anything about leukaemia or its treatment – I just assumed he would die.’ 

In the UK, 27 people every day are diagnosed with leukaemia; a form of blood cancer which affects the white blood cells. Leukaemia can affect anyone of any age and, despite progress, has one of the lowest survival rates for all cancers – at around 50%. 

‘Cenk had a lot of chemotherapy at first,’ said Georgia. ‘But even when he was really ill, he always stayed positive. I’d go and stay with him in hospital and push a single bed up next to his. We were always getting told off by the nurses for having the telly on at night or talking too loud, but we still always had a good time. He just had complete faith that he would beat it, so we all did too.’ 

Cenk was eligible for a bone marrow transplant, with his brother Cengiz providing the perfect donor match.  

‘The transplant was amazing,’ said Georgia. ‘It bought us so much time. We went to Ibiza, we to Bali – he travelled the world. They were the most incredible years.’ 

Unfortunately Cenk fell ill once again and, on the 21st December 2021, aged just 26 years old, sadly died. 

Georgia said: ‘You’d think after all that time of him being ill, it wouldn’t have come as a shock – but it honestly still did. Even when he was given 6 months to live, he still convinced us all that he was gonna be fine. I remember my best friend’s Mum called to tell me the news, and she said “Cenk’s gone”, I said – gone where? Gone to the shop? What do you mean, gone? And she said, “no, he’s gone, he’s passed away”.’

‘I was absolutely traumatised. I think because he’d had so much treatment, and because he’d been so ill before but always gotten over it, I just wasn’t ready to accept that he would actually die.’ 

Cenk died just 4 days before Christmas; a time that Georgia remembers as ‘the worst Christmas of my life’. Georgia is now supporting Leukaemia UK’s Christmas Appeal, hoping to help raise the vital funds urgently needed to support life-changing research into leukaemia. 

Fiona Hazell, Chief Executive of Leukaemia UK, said: ‘Christmas can be a very difficult time for families impacted by leukaemia – whether because they’ve lost a loved one, or because they or someone close to them is undergoing gruelling treatment that sadly, is not always successful. We firmly believe that research has the power to stop leukaemia devastating lives, and that’s why we’re investing in world-class research to find kinder, more effective treatments. We can’t do that without support from the public, and we’re so grateful to Georgia and to Cenk’s family for bravely sharing their story to raise awareness. Please consider giving what you can to Leukaemia UK this Christmas and help us to stop leukaemia from devastating more lives.  

‘I think it’s so important to support Leukaemia UK,’ said Georgia. ‘There are so many amazing treatments out there now, and if it wasn’t for charities like Leukaemia UK, these treatments wouldn’t be available – but there is so much more than can be done. There are so many more treatments to be discovered, and I don’t want families to keep having that empty seat at the dinner table at Christmas. I want there to be a cure for leukaemia, so the best thing we can do is fund research and try to find more treatments.’ 

Georgia also shared her words of wisdom for families and individuals who may be living with a leukaemia diagnosis right now. 

She said: ‘Hold on to hope – no matter what happens. Whatever the outcome hope can give you so much joy, and you want to live each day with a bit of hope and happiness. Try and embrace the present moment because you don’t know how long you’ve got with your loved ones, and the best thing you can do is live every moment as it comes.’ 

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