As my regular readers will know, I’m a passionate supporter of the wonderful work done by the Anthony Nolan Trust. I’m not alone, either – a devoted network of people throughout the UK are regularly fund-raising, taking part in sponsored events, or recruiting new people to the stem cell and bone marrow donor register.
I can attest to the great work the charity does. I got involved with them when the Shake4Mike campaign was gathering momentum. I’ll briefly recap the story for you here. A young man from Bristol named Mike Brandon was battling a particularly aggressive form of leukaemia, and an international appeal was launched to find a stem cell donor. Mike’s fiancée Kate is the niece of my mother’s next-door neighbour, which is why I got invited to help spread the word via social media. Time was not on our side.
The good news is that a suitable match was found. The even better news is that Mike and Kate got married last summer. He’s still got a lot of treatment ahead, but he seems to be responding well.
However, another young person was not so lucky. This weekend the people of Wales have been saddened to hear of the death of 18-year-old science student Emily Clark, from Llantarnam, near Cwmbran. Emily was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin (Burkitt) lymphoma in December 2013, and had to endure chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. She had been cancer free for a year following the treatment, but unfortunately she suffered a relapse and passed away on Saturday.
In spite of this, Emily maintained a positive attitude, and her social media campaign inspired many people to sign up as tissue donors. She and her family and friends also raised some £5,000 for the Anthony Nolan Trust and the Teenage Cancer Trust. She was a student at the University of South Wales, and was hoping to proceed to medical school. Emily’s determination, optimism and tireless campaigning have done a great deal to raise the profile of the tissue donor register.
So I’m going to appeal to my readers again. If you’re aged between 16 and 30, and in good general health, you can sign up to the register as well. If you have a look at the Anthony Nolan Trust website, there’s a lot more information there. (If you’re outside the UK, you can sign up to the tissue register in your own country.) The testing procedure is painless and non-invasive; you simply need to spit into a little plastic bottle and send it back.
If you’re eligible to join the register (and I’m a few months over the cut-off point), I’d really urge you to get involved. Whether you’re eligible or not, you can always help with fund-raising. If seven collection boxes dotted around South Wales can raise nearly £350 in under two years, imagine what we could achieve if every pub and independent business agreed to host one.
Let’s try and let young Emily’s tragic story be the foundation for a lasting legacy. May she rest in peace.