Rik Basra: It has been fantastic to be able to see family and friends and catch up
Opening your home to friends and relatives is a part of family life most people take for granted. But for Leicestershire police officer Rik Basra, the simple pleasure of inviting loved ones over has been strictly off-limits for the past nine months.
The 53-year-old had to live in near isolation as he began his recovery from leukaemia.
His treatment meant he was highly susceptible to infection and had to avoid anyone who might be carrying any kind of bug.
But earlier this month Rik, who has been with the force for 26 years, was given the news he had been waiting for – he was strong enough to have guests at home again.
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"Being in isolation for so long, as you can imagine, is difficult," he said.
"It's been fantastic to be able to see people again and catch up on all the gossip."
Rik learned he had acute myeloid leukaemia in 2009. He had several bouts of chemotherapy and thought he had beaten the disease.
But last year the father-of-two felt unwell again and tests revealed the cancer had returned.
Rik's best chance of recovery was a stem cell transplant – a procedure in which stem cells from a healthy donor are given to a leukaemia patient through a transfusion.
It is hoped such donations will enable patients to build a strong immune system to fight the disease.
A search of the UK donor register yielded no matches. But a suitable donor was found in Germany and Rik had a stem cell transplant on Christmas Eve.
He was able to leave Leicester Royal Infirmary in mid-January, after which he and wife Kas lived in isolation at their home in the Lutterworth area.
Rik took drugs to suppress his immune system – to prevent the new cells being rejected by his body – leaving him vulnerable to infection.
He said: "For the first 100 days after the operation, the only person I was able to see was Kas.
"Gradually, I was able to see my daughters and close family but visits by the wider family, friends and colleagues were off the agenda.
"If I had picked up any kind of infection, even a cold or a flu bug, I would have been back in hospital.
"The chief constable and other colleagues have been to see me this week to see how I was. It was good to catch up."
Despite being allowed visitors at home, restrictions remain on who Rik can come into contact with.
"I still can't go to public places because I would not be in control of that environment and would have no idea what infections or illnesses people there might have," he said.
"Basically, the steer I've been given by my consultants is that I should carry on with what I'm doing at the moment because I am making good progress.
"If things go to plan, then I should be in a position to make phased return to work in January, subject to doctors' approval of course.
"I really feel I'm further down the road to recovery and getting some semblance of normality back into our lives again.
"I'm still on some of the immune-suppressant drugs and waiting to see how my body reacts to the new cells.
"At the moment, everything is going well and I feel fit and strong.
"I am not ill and there hasn't been an adverse reactions.
"I still have to take each day as it comes. I'm doing my best to stay fit by eating healthy food and doing some exercise."
Kas said: "You often hear people described as strong and positive when they are coping with cancer.
"I've known Rik a long time but I've learned more about him in this past year than in all those years before.
"The way he has dealt with all of this and the speed of his recovery have been a credit to him.
"He's been an inspiration to his family and friends.
"He's taught me and the girls that there's nothing you can't do."
Leukaemia damages the body's stem cells, which in turn affects its ability to create healthy blood and to build an effective immune system, allowing cancer to spread.
Last year, the couple, their family and friends threw themselves into a campaign to recruit people to the national stem cell donor register which is maintained by medical research charity Anthony Nolan.
Asian people in particular are under-represented on the database.
Thousands of people registered as potential life-savers at a series of events organised by the couple, their family and friends.
Kas said: "We're going to keep going with the campaign because there is still some way to go. It's taken a lot of organising, but it has been more than worth the effort."
The couple have created a website which gives updates on Rik's condition and information about their campaign. Visit: