7 February 2020
Diagnosed with myeloma in 2017, over the past few years Peter McCleave has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of blood cancer. He’s signed-up over 36,000 people to the register, 12 of whom have been confirmed matches for others, and his appeal has raised over £70,000 for DKMS.
Last month, the dad-of-two released ‘The Tide’ charity single with proceeds going to DKMS. Here, Peter shares his story and chart success.
“Just after completing Iron Man Wales in 2016, I fell ill. The doctors initially thought I was suffering with a bout of pneumonia. A few months later, by this time 2017, the doctors came back to me and diagnosed me with (AML) – a rare and incurable blood cancer.
“This was a shock to me, because I had always been fit and healthy. I was 39 at the time, a father of two, a son, a brother and a husband. I was given a maximum of seven years to live. However, that prognosis came with a caveat. I was told that if I could find a stem cell donor, there was no reason why I couldn’t live a normal life. Ever since then I’ve been set on raising awareness of blood cancer.”
“My family was tested, but no one was identified as match for me. I got in touch with DKMS and found out I was one of the 2,000 UK patients, each year, reliant on a stranger for a lifesaving blood stem cell match.
“However, I really wanted to do as much as possible for myself and others searching for a ‘genetic twin’, so I set up my www.10000donors.com website to help to raise awareness of blood cancer. As it stands, Only 2% of the UK population is signed up to the aligned stem cell register.”
A real challenge
“You might not realise it from looking at me, but my chances of finding a match are reduced because of my Macanese (Chinese and Portuguese) heritage.
“People from a black, Asian or other minority ethnic (BAME) background currently make up 14% of the registry and only have a 20% chance of finding the best possible stem cell donor match, compared with 69% for those from northern European backgrounds.”
“Last year, I had a chance meeting with local musician Lee Gordon outside a coffee shop in our home town. Although we live in the same village, and our children go to the same school, that meeting was the beginning of what would become ‘The Tide’. Lee wrote and performed the song (released 24th January 2020) as a tribute to blood cancer patients.
“The song takes listeners through three years of my life – since diagnosis, and touches on the highs and lows of living with cancer.
“The music video features DKMS blood cancer patients Finley ‘Finn The Fabulous’ Hill and Meena Sharma-Kumari-Sharma – both of whom are still awaiting a blood stem cell transplant.
“We held a fantastic launch party at St Boniface’s Church in our village and lit it red, in support of DKMS. ITV came down on the night and we received support from a number of radio stations, including BBC Radio 2 and Heart FM. Lee and I were invited onto The James Whale Radio show on talkRadio, where Lee performed an acoustic version of the song.”
“When we released the single [on 24 January], we made it all the way to number 1 on Amazon’s Indie chart and number 2 on their Best Seller’s chart. At one point we were ahead of Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi.
“If you’d have told me in 2017 that I’d be in the charts along with American R&B singer The Dream and Lewis Capaldi, I’d have bitten your hand off.
"We also spent four days on the iTunes chart. I’m not sure of the final number of singles sold yet, but I’m so pleased it struck a chord (pun intended). Our story was picked up by over 170 newspapers, we received over £1,000 in sponsorship and in the first few days roughly 3,000 joined DKMS because of the song.
"I’m so thankful to all the supporters and I’m especially grateful to Lee because he’s such a great guy who did all of this for free.”
Celebrity support from Al Murray
“I was on social media the other day and saw comedian Al Murray urging people to register with DKMS, because of his nephew’s appeal. The next thing I know, Al was supporting our song. It was a bit surreal, but in a good way. I can’t thank him enough.”
“If, like Al, you want to do something great, you’ve still got time to make a difference by purchasing the single.”
How you can help
The Tide is available to download or stream now from all major digital platforms, including iTunes and Spotify. By downloading and purchasing the single, you will be helping to support Peter and others like him.
If you are aged between 17-55 and in good general health, please register for your home swab kit online at dkms.org.uk.