Sarah May: Turning My Illness into £1M for Charity

After abruptly finding out that she was suffering from End Stage Kidney Failure in the Autumn of 2010, Sarah May’s life changed forever. Surprisingly, Sarah’s positive attitude meant that this was a change for the better. After her brother donated a kidney the following summer Sarah was fortunate enough to make a full recovery. As a direct result of her illness and the incredible staff in the Renal Unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), Sarah began fundraising for Kidneys for Life.


Away from her charity work, Sarah also runs a successful coaching and mentoring business, helping professionals and individuals to be the best they can be, professionally and personally.


In today’s feature, #YesSheCan checks in with Sarah on her journey to raise £1,000,000 for charity.


How my career began

I’ve always had a desire to help ever since I was young, being an older sister I think it’s a natural instinct. My mum died when I was just 14 and my brother was 10, so I felt that this instinct was stronger in me than other girls my age.


I worked in a bank for years, working my way up from Cashier to more corporate roles in Customer Service, including time as the Training Manager for Product and Leadership Development. I had the pleasure of working overseas too and I found that I really enjoyed helping to get the best out of other’s whether that be through increased sales or helping them develop their own careers. After taking a career break to start a family I started my own coaching business.


Where my life changed

After running this business for many years and managing the growth around my lifestyle as a working mum, you can imagine the shock I had when I was diagnosed with End Stage Kidney Failure and being hospitalised every other day. Being a naturally positive person I didn’t let it defeat me. I realised that I had to live every day to the full. I then understood that life was so fragile and can end in a split second.


My motivation kicked into overdrive as I now faced my own health challenges. I had no choice but to get better and stay alive as I had a young growing family to look after. As far as I was concerned there was no other option but to stay the healthiest I could be and have the most positive mindset to get me through the next year on Dialysis and onto Transplantation.

My motivation was not only to get better, but it was also to show people this didn’t have to be a negative story. To the contrary, my motivation was to be even fitter, more healthy and even more determined to have the best life possible. This included my lifelong passion of helping others. Whether this is through my business coaching or Charity work that I had been involved with before I was diagnosed with Kidney Failure.


Fortunately, I wasn’t short of people offering to donate their kidney’s to me. My brother, husband, friends and children all offered. My brother was the closest match and after the surgery, we both made full recoveries.

Making the best of a difficult situation

Realising that I had the passion and drive to make a difference and seeing the positive change that I could make in the dialysis unit of MRI, I decided to start fundraising. Initially, this was a way of getting busier and giving purpose to my life after my operation but it quickly became my job.


Shortly after my transplant, I raised £120,000 for Kidney’s for Life by organising a bike ride from London to Paris. I raised several hundred thousand more pounds for the charity before moving to another charity – Prevent Breast Cancer. In total, I have raised over £600,000 for charities and I’m on a mission to raise over £1,000,000.


I aim to raise this whilst also helping women in their careers through my business coaching business.


Why I’m supporting #YesSheCan

#YesSheCan is an incredible initiative helping women to make the most of life and make a positive impact to the world. Inspiring people is a passion of mine. If I had had more people say to me at a young age ‘YES YOU CAN SARAH”, who knows where this might have taken me?


My job as a Business Coach means I have the privilege of helping people become their best possible self and this makes a huge difference to people’s lives. I’m not perfect but I’ve learned a lot throughout my experiences I try to impart this to my clients as best as I can.


My advice to women starting or developed in their careers


Play to your strengths.

You truly are unique and you need to recognise that the value you have in this world is completely yours. Understand what your strengths are and you will be a force to be reckoned with.


Always walk tall.

Have a positive, can-do attitude and seize any opportunities that come your way. I could have had the mindset of being a victim in life, with all the challenges I have faced, but I believe that it sends a much stronger message to change the world through positivity and it is much more fun and rewarding.


Be passionate and enthusiastic even though you may not feel like it.

You never know when your luck might change, or what might come up. The most amazing things can happen on the most unlikely of days. Enthusiasm, passion and positivity are the only way to make sure you’re ready for them.




#YesSheCan really resonates with me. Because of my illness, I know what it is like to not be able to enjoy the simple things in life that we can all take for granted, or do simple, mundane things like drink a glass of water. So I now really appreciate all that is possible and I do what I do BECAUSE I CAN.

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