Andy was my “little big brother” – the youngest of my three older brothers. The one I was closest to growing up, the one I followed to the same university, who showed me round and told me the best places to go. He was always the most easy-going, the good-looking one that my mates all fancied and that used to make everyone laugh. He was also the sporty one. Growing up it was football and basketball but later cycling became his passion. He rode many events and organised a group of friends to cycle Land’s End to John O’Groats, raising enough money for his mate to open a school in Africa.
We were a healthy extended family. No serious health issues – all my grandparents survived into their 80s, with our grandad making it to 101. Cancer was something that happened to other people.
That all changed at the end of 2015. After a few weeks of back pain Andy woke up one night and couldn’t feel his legs. He was rushed to hospital where a scan revealed a tumour strangling his spinal cord; surgery and a subsequent biopsy revealed the tumour was Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a type of blood cancer.
Throughout multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, learning to walk again and a stem cell transplant Andy never lost his sense of humour.
Being negative just wasn’t on his radar and damn those who were! Used to training on his bike, he applied the same mentality to his recovery. Despite the subject matter, Andy kept family and friends entertained and inspired with his infamous witty Facebook updates. Don’t ever believe that people die of cancer because they give up or didn’t fight hard enough. Andy had everything to live for – a wife, Lou, who was his best mate and he still looked at as doe-ey eyed as on their wedding day, and two kids, Izzy and Louie, of whom he was so very proud. Even when he was told his condition was terminal he was determined to make the most of what time he had left, and in his final few days was still making us laugh with his put-downs and sharp wit. He even had us laughing amongst the tears at his funeral after he’d written his own eulogy to entertain us.
Andy was only 46 when he died on 27 December 2017 – the same age I will be January 2021.
Although my story doesn’t have a happy ending, through talking about it I have discovered two friends who have relatives who are still here today thanks to a stranger giving them their stem cells.
Please #swabyourgob and spread the word - you might just stop another family’s life being torn apart.
Every 20 minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer. This diagnosis is devastating, and during the corona virus outbreak, it is even more crucial that we do all we can to offer hope to people with blood cancer and blood disorders. We have seen the numbers of people joining the blood stem cell register decline dramatically in recent times, and now, more than ever before, we need you to sign up. For many, a blood stem cell donation is their best chance of recovery and only 30% of people find a match within their family. This means the remainder will need to find an anonymous blood stem cell donor, and that could be you.
A note about Coronavirus
We understand there are lots of worries and concerns around coronavirus and would like to reassure you that it is completely safe to request and send in your swabs.
If you're a match
If you are identified as a match, you will donate in one of two ways. In the majority of cases this is via a process called “Peripheral Blood Stem Cell collection”, which is a little like giving blood. In 10% of cases, the stem cells are taken from your bone marrow, under general anaesthetic. The method of donation is chosen by the patients team based on what is most suitable for them.
Together we will beat blood cancer.
To register as a blood stem cell donor, you need to be between 17-55, in general good health and not registered with another donor centre. To check your eligibility and request your swab kit, follow the link below.
It costs us £40 to register a new donor on the UK stem cell registry. As a charity, we rely on monetary donations from the public to help cover this cost and greatly appreciate any contribution, no matter how big or small.
If you are unable to register as a potential donor, we would be very grateful if you could consider making a contribution towards the cost of a registration.