Today marks the 5 year anniversary since my father, my best friend, died as a result of the blood cancer myeloma. I don’t like using the word “anniversary”, as that makes me think of celebrations, and the grief I have felt every day for the last 5 years is certainly nothing to celebrate. (If you want to, you can read about the loss of my father HERE).
As I said in that post, I had never heard of myeloma until Dad’s diagnosis. Although it is an incurable cancer, it is treatable in many cases, and I have since heard of many people who have lived with it for 10+ years. When the doctors were discussing treatment options for Dad, they mentioned the possibility of stem cell transplant, but said he would need high-dose chemotherapy first. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy made him extremely ill and they stopped it, which meant that stem cell treatment was no longer an option.
At the same time as Dad was diagnosed with myeloma, a beautiful 14 month old girl called Margot was diagnosed with a very rare form of blood cancer and desperately needed a transplant. There was a massive appeal for potential donors all over social media. Her story really tugged at my heartstrings, and I registered to be a donor with DKMS UK, a charity who is dedicated to finding a matching donor for every single blood cancer patient who needs a stem cell donation. I registered online, and received a swab kit in the post.
It was such an easy thing to do. Just rub the swabs provided along the inside of my cheeks, let them dry, and then send them back to DKMS. The whole process took just minutes. DKMS could then analyse my tissue type, and the information could be made available for every search for a donor for a blood cancer patient. So far, I haven’t been a match for anyone, but I hope one day I will be.
There is a match somewhere in the world for every single person who needs it. The sad fact is though that not many people register to help them, so they don’t find their match. Lets look at the statistics:
- There are nearly 67 million people living in the UK
- Someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer every 20 minutes, meaning that over 30,000 people are diagnosed each year
- 1 in 3 of those will luckily find a donor within their family
- Every year, over 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell donation from a stranger
- Only 2% of the population are registered as potential stem cell donors
- 4 out of 10 blood cancer patients will not find a matching donor
These statistics have to change! Ask yourself this… if you or a loved one needed a stem cell donation, would you be willing to receive one from someone you didn’t know? That one person who is a perfect match? Would you be appealing for people to register to help you or your loved one? Of course you would. Surely then you have to be willing to potentially help someone else if you have the chance. Chances are you will never be a match for anyone, but what if you are that one perfect match for someone who is in desperate need right now, but you’re not registered so they don’t find you. The thought breaks my heart. There is a match somewhere for everyone. More people need to register to help.
DKMS UK made a little video to explain the process. You can watch it HERE.
Another video well worth watching is THIS ONE in which a donor, and someone currently waiting for a match, both talk about the process and what it means to them.
“WE MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT WE GET. WE MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT WE GIVE”
“NO ONE IS USELESS IN THIS WORLD WHO LIGHTENS THE BURDEN OF ANOTHER”