Fun-loving father of two Rakesh, 49, loves socialising with his friends and family, watching Formula 1, building Lego and he’s also a keen quizzer.
”When I was told I needed a stem cell transplant, I assumed a sibling would be a match for me. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, which is when I heard about the donor register and the fact a stranger could save my life. I was filled with hope. But currently, there is no matching donor”
He knew something was wrong when he started feeling extremely tired and lost weight without knowing why. A few hours after undergoing a full blood test, Rakesh was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia – a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer.
Rakesh has already been through several rounds of intense chemotherapy. His doctors have now told him that, to be able to complete his treatment, he’ll need a lifesaving stem cell transplant from a stranger.
Finding a matching donor for Rakesh is made more difficult because of his Indian heritage. Patients from White European backgrounds have a 69% chance of finding their perfect donor match on the register, but this falls to just 20% for people from minority ethnic backgrounds, like Rakesh, because of a lack of people from these communities on the register.
Rakesh has actually been told twice that a matching donor had been found for him – but neither time was able to go ahead. He commented:
“The first donor match was a 10/10 match. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was already being medically prepared for stem cell therapy but at the very last moment found out from the doctors that the donation was not going to proceed. No reason was given. I felt a crushing disappointment and emotional again, but this time it was bewilderment, similar to a feeling of loss or bereavement.
“The second time around, a month later, I had a 9/10 match. I had a feeling of hope, but this time with caution. I was also somewhat hopeful that there seemed to me be a stream of potential donors. Later I was told that the second donor unfortunately was not able to proceed due to them failing the medical examination.
“Having told people close to me on two occasions that donors had been found, and later having to tell them they did not materialise was emotional. People asked me why it’s a problem to find donors. I explained that there aren't enough people who are educated about blood cancer or aware of the need for more donors.”
Rakesh, his wife Nisha and two children Deven and Aaron are urging everyone aged between 17-55 to join the DKMS stem cell register – particularly those with Indian heritage, like Rakesh.
One of his sons and Nisha have already joined the register. Nisha said: “I fear the future if a donor cannot be found. I myself am on the register as I don’t want anyone to go through what we are going through.”