Today I finished the process of joining the Anthony Nolan blood cancer donor register. They’re a charity that helps people with blood cancers, like leukemia, to find a suitable stem cell donor in order to save their life.
I heard about the charity last week, as they are currently having a bit recruitment drive to try to get more men aged 18-30 on their register. One of the groups they have been targeting is gay men, because often gay men wouldn’t be aware that they can donate their stem cells in this way. Because of the stupid ban on gays donating blood, they think they can’t donate anything, and in this case it isn’t true.
So after I had read about the charity and about what stem cell donation involves, I filled in an online form and then today I sent them a saliva sample that they can use for testing for tissue matches with people who need a transplant.
I’m a bit surprised that I went through with it, because I’m quite scared of the prospect of having to donate. It’s not really that arduous, but I’m scared nonetheless. You basically have to have three injections over three days to stimulate your stem cell production, and then you either go and sit in a clinic for four hours hooked up to a machine that harvests the cells from your blood, or they give you an anaesthetic and take some bone marrow from your pelvis with a syringe. Neither of them cause you any lasting effects, although with the latter method you might be a bit bruised and you have to stay in hospital overnight.
Reading that back now, it sounds like quite a lot of effort and disruption to go to, as you have to take time of work and things. But then throughout this whole process of joining, I’ve kept thinking “What if I needed a transplant? Even worse, what if Chris did?” Because when I think of it like that, and imagine some potential donor out there who could save Chris’ life but who is too scared or too lazy to do it, I think why on Earth am I hesitating? I’d be desperate, so desperate for a donor to come forward, and you could actually save someone’s life and stop people losing a loved one.
So I’ve done it.
The maximum number of times I can be asked to donate between now and when I’m 60 is twice, and if they actually found a tissue match for me there’s still a chance I’d be deemed too underweight to donate. But all I had to do was fill in a form and spit in a tube, and it might make all the difference to someone.
So there, that’s a Good Deed that I’ve done. But I’m still a bit scared.
If you want to find out more or join the register, see the Anthony Nolan website.