This summer I was due to climb Kilimanjaro with Durham Universities Charities Committee as deputy leader of the expedition. It was a wonderful prospect to have the opportunity to travel to Tanzania and raise funding for COCO who promote education for all in East Africa. I was also looking forward to the challenge as somebody who suffers with depression, I saw the trek as an opportunity to prove to myself of what I could achieve, on days when I didn’t see getting out of bed and brushing my teeth as something tangible. I had hoped I could raise awareness of mental health issues during my trek, and the positive effect of a physically enduring challenge.
Just a fortnight before I was due to travel to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro in aid of COCO, I got a call from the Anthony Nolan register to say that I was a match for a blood cancer patient who is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. I was now considered to be a potential donor, I needed to provide blood samples for confirmatory testing of my HLA type and virology screening which would establish if I were the best available match. I was told that there was a 1 in four chance that I would be the donor and I knew that young people are most likely to be chosen to donate as they provide better outcomes for patients.
I was faced with a moral dilemma because after informing Anthony Nolan of my travel plans I was told that travelling to Tanzania would make me ineligible to donate, because of the high risk of contracting a disease. I was told that if another suitable donor was not found while I was in Tanzania then the process would ensue, once a doctor had established that I had not contracted anything whilst travelling. This of course would delay the donating process for 6 weeks, I know this would feel like a lifetime for a family who’s loved one was suffering with blood cancer. Anthony Nolan did not advice me to cancel my trip, however I came to my own conclusion that I could not go ahead with the expedition whilst potentially delaying the life saving process for whomever is suffering with blood cancer.
I made a commitment to COCO and to my fellow Durham university students, however, in my eyes my commitment to Anthony Nolan began five years ago when I signed up to the register.
It is very rare to be told you are a match for somebody, (once you are on the register, you have a 1 in 790 chance of being asked to donate) and I know that Kilimanjaro will always be there to conquer.
Despite the fact that I am no longer trekking, I want to raise as much money as possible for COCO, so that my decision to go ahead with Anthony Nolan doesn’t impact the charity unfavourably. I would be ever so grateful for your support in doing so by donating to the just giving page below.
I would also like to take this opportunity to urge anybody reading this to consider signing up to the register, because like me, you could reach your own summit by becoming involved in Anthony Nolan’s life saving work. The charity is always looking to recruit potential donors aged 16-30 who are in good health, especially young men as they are 6 times more likely to donate because they produce more stem cells, however they only make up just 15% of the register. Check you're eligible, sign up to the register online and the charity will send a spit kit in the post so that you can provide a quick saliva sample. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps raise awareness of two brilliant causes.