David’s stem cell donation took place in April 2017 – and he’s kindly shared his story to encourage more people to join the Anthony Nolan register. Read on!
I joined the Anthony Nolan stem cell register in my first few weeks at Leeds University and thought nothing of it until two months ago when, on a lunch break at work, I checked my phone and had a missed call and a text, ‘URGENT! We are trying to contact David…’
I had joined the Anthony Nolan register when a friend and fellow student at the University of Leeds was diagnosed with Anaplastic Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and needed a lifesaving stem cell transplant. Although my friend successfully had his own stem cells transplanted back into him – making a full recovery – myself and many of my friends remained on the register.
Being a match
On the phone to Anthony Nolan, I had many many questions: What does it involve? How long would I need off work? Who was the patient and what were their survival chances? As soon as I understood that there would be absolutely no long term impact on me, yet I was going to be giving a critically ill cancer sufferer his best chance of life, I knew deep down I had to go ahead with it.
I arranged to go to the Anthony Nolan offices the next day to give blood samples to confirm whether I was the best match. At this point I knew the chances of me being a match and the procedure going ahead were approximately one in four. For a few weeks it slipped to the back of my mind but then I received a letter confirming me as the best match shortly followed by a phone call giving the date of my stem cell donation.
My stem cell donation
Anthony Nolan were amazing, they arranged absolutely everything and even visited and answered my questions during donation. They also arranged for a companion to travel and stay in London to support me. Transport for London were very supportive too enabling me to take time off and work flexibly so that my transplant could go ahead.
There are many false myths surrounding stem cell donation. My donation was simple, comfortable and straightforward. For the four days before donation I received G-CSF injections. This naturally occurring stimulant makes the bones create more stem cells and release them into the bloodstream. This was perhaps the hardest part of the donation process as my bones ached a little and I felt as if I had flu.
On the day of my stem cell donation I was hooked up to a large machine for around 4 hours which took blood out of my left arm, removed the extra stem cells and put my blood back into my right arm. During the procedure, I was awake and chatting and busy on my phone and laptop. Following the procedure my aches had totally gone; I was tired but pain free and happy.
Up until my stem cell donation day it hadn’t really hit me what I was doing. Whilst donating I decided to send out a few tweets to show my friends what I was doing. I got some of the most incredible retweets and comments from total strangers. It was really overwhelming being thanked by total strangers who were waiting to find a match suffering from cancer. It was also inspiring hearing from people telling me how they are only alive today because a total stranger donated stem cells.
Be that stranger!
Anthony Nolan can only find the best possible match for around 60% of Northern European transplant recipients but this falls to just 20% for patients from black, Asian or ethnic minority backgrounds. If I or a member of my family, or a friend needed a match I’d be begging everyone to sign up.
It’s unbelievable to think that we now live in a world where certain types of cancer can be cured; we just need more people to join the register: anthonynolan.org/join