Category Archives: charity

The Appliance of Science

In which The Author asks for your help again

My regular readers will already be very familiar with my involvement with Anthony Nolan, a terrific UK charity which helps people in need of treatment for various forms of blood cancer. If you’re new to the story, I’ll give you a brief recap.
Two years ago, a young man from Bristol named Mike Brandon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The poor bugger had only just got engaged to his girlfriend Kate, and then received this devastating blow a week or so later. Kate and Mike’s many friends, in association with Anthony Nolan, launched a social media blitz to encourage people to sign up for the tissue donor register. Using the hashtag #Shake4Mike, they spread the word via Facebook and Twitter, and highlighted the charity’s great work in supporting Mike and other people in similar circumstances.
To cut a long story short, Kate’s aunt lives next door to my mother. I got a phone call asking me if I’d spread the word – which I was only too pleased to do. Thanks to everyone else who got behind it as well, the campaign went viral, with mainstream media at home and abroad featuring Mike’s story. The number of people signing up for the tissue register went sky-high. Almost against the odds, we found a suitable match for Mike so that he could receive pioneering stem cell treatment. He was responding well, and he and Kate tied the knot last summer, as I reported soon afterwards.
I also contacted the charity directly and asked them to send me some collection boxes, which my friends in business across South Wales have been kind enough to host. Saturday’s trip to the Bridge in Ebbw Vale yielded a not unhealthy £12.00 (plus some shrapnel, which I added to one of the boxes nearer home on Monday), bringing my individual total to over £370.
Now for the bad news …
Mike has relapsed. He found out just before Easter that his cancer has returned, despite the best efforts of his doctors here in the UK.
The good news is that he seems to be a suitable patient for even more cutting-edge medicine in the USA, and this is where we need to ask for your help. As you can probably imagine, it’s not cheap. We need to raise a jaw-dropping £400,000 to fund his stay in the States while he’s undergoing treatment. Kate has launched a crowdfunding page to appeal for donations. It’s been running less than a week, and at the time of writing the total raised stands at over £88,000.
That’s why I’m writing this now. I know many of you got involved with #Shake4Mike as a direct result of reading my earlier entries about Mike and Kate. Now, though, we don’t want your saliva – we need your money instead. If you’d like to make a donation to the appeal, you can follow the link to the Donate4Mike page and chip in a few shillings. You can also follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook and Twitter by searching for Donate4Mike.
I’ve yet to meet Mike and Kate in the flesh, but I’ll address this last paragraph to them directly.
I take my hat off to you, Mike, for your endless courage and steadfast determination to conquer your illness. I salute you, Kate, for your unswaying love in the face of almost unimaginable circumstances. I hope one day to sit and raise an elbow with you, and thank you for your inspirational and awe-inspiring presence in our lives. I’ve got everything crossed for you both.

Emily Clark – a tribute and a note of hope

In which The Author reads some sad news

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.