Cardiff Marrow can often be found around uni, signing up eager students to potentially donate stem cells under parent charity Anthony Nolan’s register, but now they’re busier than ever as they mark Hero Week (Monday 21st-Friday 25th November.) This sees the whole Marrow community – they’re a society found in over 40 unis across the country – recruiting as many could-be lifesavers as possible; fundraising; spreading the word about blood cancer and stem cell transplants; and debunking the myths that can sadly put people off getting involved. They’ll be name-dropping some well-known heroes, and reminding you that joining the register is what it takes for you to be counted among them…
Blood cancer covers leukaemia, lymphoma and MDS, and is one of the most common types diagnosed in young people. Many patients require transplants – stem-cells (sometimes referred to as bone marrow) are infused into the body, replacing unhealthy cells and hopefully curing the cancer. Often, these transplants are a last resort and the patient’s only chance of survival. However, finding matches can be difficult. Although 90% of transplants are via Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation, in which cells are removed from the donor in a manner similar to giving blood, it’s much more specific than blood donation, meaning sometimes not even siblings are matches. This is why Marrow and Anthony Nolan are so passionate in widening the register, so there’s more chance of reaching someone’s 10/10 match.
To join Anthony Nolan’s register, the only criteria is to be aged 16-30, weigh over 7st 12lbs, and be generally healthy. If you spot Cardiff Marrow around campus, say hi – it takes just 15 minutes to fill out the form and spit in a tube. Your saliva sample goes off to the main database, then in the rare event of being a seriously ill patient’s match, you’ll undergo a few non-invasive tests then if everything’s looking dandy, donate, probably by Peripheral Stem Cell Donation as aforementioned, or, in 10% of cases, by bone marrow donation under general anaesthetic. Most donors are home within a couple of days, experience very few side-effects, and praise how simple yet rewarding giving someone another chance of life was.
Marrow, who recruit over a quarter of all Anthony Nolan donors, are particularly keen to recruit students, as the younger the donor the healthier the stem cells tend to be; men and those from ethnic minorities, as they’re underrepresented; and gay men, as there’s a misconception that they’re ineligible.
Cardiff Marrow have a range of events coming up, from fundraising at Ikea; a clinic at the Catholic Chaplaincy, 12-4 on Wednesday 23rd November; and festive carolling on Queen Street in December.
We’re also looking for volunteers – I gain so much from being Media Coordinator. As a blood cancer survivor myself, I can see how much hope Marrow offers to those diagnosed with the same illness, and there’s a real sense of both community and achievement which is why I’d recommend getting involved! If you’d like to find out more about joining the register, society or both, drop us a line at facebook.com/marrowcardiff, twitter.com/cardiffmarrow or Cardiff@ukmarrow.org and make this Hero Week one to remember.
– Eleanor Philpotts