You've Got It In You to become a donor this Blood Cancer Awareness Month - Alex's story

1 September 2019

This September, You’ve Got it in You to become a blood stem cell donor during Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

With only 2% of the UK’s population on the blood stem cell registry, this Blood Cancer Awareness Month we are urging more people to come forward and sign up as a potential lifesaver through our #You’veGotItInYou campaign.

Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer, such as leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma and blood cancers are the third most common cause of cancer death.

Only one in three people with a blood cancer (and in need of a transplant) will find a matching blood stem cell donor within their own family – two in three rely on a generous stranger to register as a donor to save their life. A blood stem cell donation from a genetically similar person can offer the best, or only chance of survival. 

 

Alex Christopher, 32, from Chorley, was inspired to sign up with DKMS following his colleague, mentor and friend Peter McCleave’s own search to find his lifesaver.

Alex's story​

“I was working very closely with Peter, and he was a massive help to me in terms of my career development. We developed a close friendship, and I was supporting him with his Ironman endeavours. Afterwards we noticed he was off work a bit – initially he thought his symptoms were as a result of the Ironman – pneumonia from the swim, and backache from muscle fatigue…

Unfortunately, doctors diagnosed Peter with myeloma, a type of blood cancer. With no match within his family, he is relying on a stranger to help save his life. Without this, doctors have given him less than seven years to live.

Peter being Peter, he didn’t let that stop him. He was back in the office when he could be, and starting to raise awareness on social media. So we signed up through Peter’s campaign”.

Receiving that life changing call...

“Within a year of sending back my swabs, I was walking through the Arndale Centre in Manchester with my wife, and I got a call from DKMS. I was on the phone for around 45 minutes where they talked me through all the options. I was beaming afterwards knowing that I could potentially help save someone’s life.

“Peter was obviously the first person I told. I think it gave him a real boost to know that somebody so close to him had been a match for someone.”

Donation day - "People who know me know I'm squeamish, so if I can go through it, anyone can!"

“I’m one of the most squeamish people you will ever meet so I was quite nervous going in to The London Clinic to donate my blood stem cells. But it was painless. It’s hard to put into words how un-daunting it was - I know people will have a lot of reservations about going through something like that if they haven’t gone through it before but honestly it was nothing, and thinking about the opportunity you’re giving somebody made it even easier.

It was no different really to lying in bed at home, except that I couldn’t really move my arms as I had two wires in me! Fortunately I had my wife at hand to feed me, and to scratch my nose which for some reason wouldn’t stop itching on the day! I was comfortable, I had everything I needed, and the nurses were always popping by to see if they could do anything else for me. I had my lunch provided and endless supplies of drinks. The four hours went by in a blink of an eye – I lay and finished a boxset on Netflix whilst my wife did crosswords and quizzes. I think after a while I forgot where I was, and before I knew it, it was all done.

The whole experience was energising. I’ve got this whole new level of motivation now I have donated that I had never had. It’s rewarding and it’s life-changing.”

 

Dr Manos Nikolousis, a Medical Advisor at DKMS, said:

“As a doctor, I have had the great privilege to oversee countless blood stem cell donations. For some donors, it is a daunting prospect, because of the myths and misconceptions around the process, but once they understand the donation methods and what’s involved, they are reassured. For most donors, the recovery time is very quick and their blood stem cells will regenerate within 4 weeks so there aren’t any lasting effects to the donor.

“Blood stem cell matches are determined by a person’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type and not their blood types. There are thousands of tissue types, and millions of different combinations that exist, so you could be potentially the only match for a person with blood cancer in need of a transplant. You could literally have it in you to save someone’s life.”

 

How you can help

If you’d like to register as a potential blood stem cell donor you can check your eligibility and request a home swab kit today.

Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can go on standby as a potential lifesaver. If you're not eligible or you're already registered, why not check the other ways to get involved in the fight against blood cancer or help us cover donor registration costs?

Find out more about Blood Cancer Awareness Month, including how you can help support the campaign.