“Just do it. It takes very little time to sign up and do the swab kit and you might be able to give someone extra time.”
Amber Hood actively supports DKMS to fundraise and sign up potential donors, after first experiencing the devastating impact of leukaemia when she was just 13 years old.
“I just remember going into school assembly and we all knew that he had passed away; everyone was in tears walking in and it was dead silent”.
Five years ago, a fellow student in her year group at the Sydney Russell School in Dagenham, East London tragically died from leukaemia. Amber and other students got involved in supporting his family; fundraising in his memory brought her into contact for the first time with DKMS.
Sadly, this was only the first time that leukaemia touched Amber and her community. A month later, a family friend’s son passed away at just 12 years old, as did another student in the year below Amber at school. A little girl who lived near Amber then lost her life to leukaemia when she was just a toddler, and another girl she knew had to have her leg amputated due to the effects of the disease.
“Suddenly, leukaemia was something really big in my area. I didn’t want to just forget about all of this because I saw how negatively it affected my friends,” says Amber. “As I learnt about leukaemia and charities like DKMS who were helping to fight it, I thought this was something I could help with."
“Since the age of ten, as my hobby, I have been competing in pageants. I won Miss Teen Galaxy UK this March, and then in August, I won Miss Teen Galaxy International competing against girls from all around the world.
"This has given me a platform I can use to help raise funds and awareness for charities like DKMS, and to spread the word among young people about the need for more people to register as stem cell donors.
“For example, I host evenings where I get girls from all over the country to sign up to the DKMS register, in the hopes that they could be a stem cell donor too. Every May, for Blood Cancer Awareness Day, I do a campaign called Make It Right for DKMS. I encourage people to wear red or post red on their Instagram to promote the charity and blood cancer, and I give people facts so they can talk to people about blood cancer and joining the stem cell register.
“I’ve also started doing social media videos where I talk to people about signing up to DKMS or encourage people to stories if they have had experience of leukaemia.”
Today, Amber is a busy sixth former studying for her A Levels, with plans to go to university to study philosophy, politics and economics, as so many of England’s prime ministers have done.
“I’d love to be Prime Minister!” she says. “There are lots of things I’d change. For example, the laws about what 16- and 18-year-olds can and can’t do I think that needs to be clarified a lot more, and I’d also want to help out with education in the poorer areas of the country”.
When she turned 17 in February 2023, the first thing Amber did was send off for her swab kit to sign up to the DKMS register. Anyone in general good health can start the registration process from the age of 17. A potential donor’s information is then available on the DKMS register as soon as they are 18 years old.
“Just do it – it takes very little time to sign up and do the swab kit and you might be able to give someone extra time,” she says. “I really like to tell others not to be scared of donating their stem cells. If you become a match for someone, in most cases that little procedure is nothing compared to what they are potentially losing out on.
“I am scared of needles myself. However, I think of the aftermath you’ll be proud of yourself that you’ve been able to help someone else to live their life the way any person really should – go to school, be with their friends, have their own family and have their own lives. It’s a small price to pay!”