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John Underwood avatar
John Underwood

Anthony Nolan is bloody great

I'm [trying not to die] for Anthony Nolan because [to be honest, I'm doing it for me too.]

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Anthony Nolan

We enable people with blood cancer to survive by finding them stem cell donors

Charity Registration No. in England and Wales 803716, Scotland SC038827

Story

Hello! Thanks for stopping by. Here's a fun story about cancer.

I'm John, and - full disclosure - three weeks ago I couldn't have told you the first thing about Anthony Nolan. Then, after going to my GP with what I thought was a fairly innocuous vomiting bug, I was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with a very rare late-stage lymphoma. I can't in all honesty recommend 'find out you're maybe dying' as a general summer plan, but it does focus the mind wonderfully.

I've just started chemotherapy for the above (and I do mean just - the second bag is in my arm as I type), and although my treatment has a very long way to go my best shot at an eventual recovery will probably rest with Anthony Nolan. AN is a charity that finds stem cell transplants for people who, like me, have a cancer of the blood.

Stem cell transplants are properly, unfathomably futuristic stuff, and they offer the closest thing we have to a cure for cancer - a complete purge that replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells. Some people are lucky enough to have a stem cell match in their immediate family, but plenty don't, and that's where Anthony Nolan comes in.

Have some quick facts:

- Someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer every twenty minutes.

- Every years, around 2000 people in the UK will need a stem cell transplant. For most of those people, it will be their last chance of survival.

- Two thirds of people in need of a transplant can't find one within their family. That's 1,300 or so people every year who have only one shot at life - a stranger's donation.

If you register as a potential stem cell donor, the odds are on that you'll never have to do anything; just spit in a sample tube, post it off and relax in the certainty that you're on the side of the angels. But there's a chance that, at some point, you'll turn up as a match for someone who's ill, and that's when you maybe get to save a life.

The donation process is NOT gruesome or bloody or fixated on drilling holes in your hips - it's much closer to a blood donation. In fact, it's less draining than a blood donation because you don't actually lose your blood; you have a few days of injections to boost your stem cell levels, then spend an afternoon having your blood drained out of one arm, gently scrubbed for stem cells and pumped back into the other arm. Think of it as a bit of free dialysis.

I don't want to keep rambling on, so here's the hard sell. Anthony Nolan has to spend a colossal amount of money on gathering stem cell samples, maintaining its amazing database and matching donors to people who need them. Getting a single person onto the register costs £100, which is at least nine or ten burgers at whatever nauseatingly hip burger place you favour, and that's before you factor in the cost of actually advertising what they do and trying to attract new donors. And whilst I know lots of friends and Twitterpals have already signed up as potential stem cell donors, which is AMAZING, there are lots more people who are for various reasons not eligible to donate but still keen to help.

So, if you want to do something to support the charity that's hopefully going to save my life a little while down the line, I thought you might as well do it here where I can get a smug glow from watching the total. I'm not going to do a fundraising event (at least for now), or shave my head (for anything other than selfish reasons, like not wanting to look like that wispy-haired woman in Shutter Island), but I am going to try really hard to not die, and whether I'm successful will very likely come down to the incredible work done by Anthony Nolan. So if you've got some saliva or a couple of quid to spare, do consider bunging it their way.

Thanks for reading,


John (currently not deceased) x


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