In late 2015, Luke donated his stem cells to give a complete stranger the chance of life.
In today’s blog, he talks about his experiences of donating – and explains why he’s supporting Anthony Nolan this World Cancer Day.
I’ve always had a keen interest in human anatomy and physiology, which led to my current career as an Operating Department Practitioner, caring for patients as they undergo surgery within the operating theatre.
It was during my studies that I accidentally stumbled across Anthony Nolan. I was researching information for an A-Level Biology assignment online, specifically regarding blood types and disorders. I had a read of their very informative website and decided to sign up.
It was an easy decision to make. I felt it was such a worthy cause; the opportunity to give another person a second chance at life, through a very simple process. I didn’t think twice.
Signing up was a walk in the park. I couldn’t believe that all you had to do was fill in a form, wait for a sample kit to arrive in the post, spit in it, and send it back. It might not be very glamorous, but it was certainly easy!
So I sent off my sample, and received my donor card, and it wasn’t long until I had totally forgotten about the whole thing. I guess I never really thought I would match, anyway.
My first match with a patient
After two years it all came back to me when, unfortunately, somebody I knew was diagnosed with blood cancer. They were desperately trying to find a match via Anthony Nolan.
Being signed up already, I knew I wasn’t a match. Thankfully, they eventually did find the right donor, had their transplant and recovered! Knowing that I could possibly do the same one day made me realise how glad I was to have joined.
Fast forward to January 2015 – six years after my registration with Anthony Nolan. I received a text asking me to call the charity. I remember I was sat in the car park at work, just about to attend a life-support training course when it came through. To say I was shocked and nervous was an understatement!
I called up and learnt that I was a possible match. Once again the nerves kicked in, but I agreed that I would like to continue, I sent off some blood samples and was told I had to wait. It was a bit of an anti-climax to find that I wasn’t a good enough match for the patient, so once again, it went to the back of my mind.
My second chance to save a life
Later on that year, in November, I received the same text, again asking me to call the charity. There were no nerves this time as I knew what to expect, and frankly, I thought I probably wouldn’t match and go on to donate anyway. How wrong I was!
When the confirmation call came through, I couldn’t believe it. I was actually in an operating theatre at the time, so had to run out to take the call (I wasn’t actually ‘scrubbed’, so it was safe for me to pop out for a few minutes).
The familiar nerves kicked in again, along with a massive amount of excitement. I couldn’t believe that I was going to help someone on such a personal level. I work with a lot of people suffering with cancer at the hospital, which I enjoy and find rewarding, but this was extra-special.
The next thing I knew, the charity had organised for a nurse to come and visit me at home to administer the G-CSF injections. I was going to donate peripherally, so the medication was needed to stimulate my bone marrow to produce extra stem cells that could be separated from my blood.
The injections themselves were painless – a quick little jab into my tummy once a day for four days, at a time and place that suited me. I have to say that I did get some mild flu-like symptoms, but a couple of paracetamol soon sorted me out.
Stem cell donation day
On day four I went off to London to stay in a hotel, ready for the donation the next day. The next morning I arrived at The London Clinic, after a big breakfast (I never pass up on the opportunity of a fry-up)!
Before I knew it, I was hooked up the cell separator machine, a needle in each arm, and off I went. To say it was an easy process would be a total overstatement. The worst part was that it was a little boring.
Thankfully I had my friend with me to act as a distraction, and I even had a film crew from Anthony Nolan arrive to record me for a piece on World Cancer Day. Very Hollywood!
I felt a little tired the next day – I’ll take any excuse for a lie-in – so I was more than happy to sleep it off. I was back to work by the end of the week, feeling my normal self.
As it was the lead-up to Christmas, it gave an extra-special feel to the whole event. It was the best Christmas present I have ever given, and I know I’ll never be able to top it again.
Why World Cancer Day matters
Not only have I been given the chance to potentially save my recipient’s life, I’ve also had the opportunity to be part of World Cancer Day, all thanks to Anthony Nolan.
It seems such a privilege to be able to spread the word in my own little way. Not just for blood cancers, but for all cancers in general. It is a disease that will touch most of us during our lives in one way or another, and if I can spread awareness and help to raise funds for such deserving charities doing amazing work then I’ll grab the bull by both horns and do so.
I just hope, that if unfortunately, someone I love was to be diagnosed with cancer, then the work that these charities are doing will give them a fighting chance.
I would urge as many people as possible to join the register. There is a common misconception that the process is painful and unpleasant, when it isn’t in the slightest. I’ve been hounding friends and family ,which has resulted in them signing up to.
It’s a step in the right direction, but with more registrants, more people will have a second chance at life.
Want to support our lifesaving work this World Cancer Day? Text CURE to 70020 to donate £2, or click the link below: