Luke Benjamin joined our register as a way of paying tribute to the memory of his recently departed grandparents.
The call to be a match turned a miserable day travelling into one of the most exciting days of his life and ultimately lead to a life changing experience.
One chapter ends, another begins...
I heard about Anthony Nolan while donating blood, around the time my last grandparent died around 2013/14.
I lost both sets of grandparents within the span of two emotionally draining years where various forms of cancer stole their lives. The whole affair was a very difficult time for both myself and my family. Losing one grandparent is awful, but to lose all your grandparents within a relatively short period of time is like the end of a major chapter in your life: a painful one at that.
But as they say, when one chapter ends, another begins. I wanted to do something in my own way to remember my grandparents – to honour their lives and help others at the same time. What better way, I realised, than by getting involved to help the people most affected by cancer – the patient themselves as well as their family.
As soon as I got home from donating blood I went straight to my computer and signed up to the Anthony Nolan register; it only took five minutes. We all know the importance of donating, but by donating yourself or signing up to potentially donate, you are setting the example. Not just by talking, but by doing.
An unexpected phone call
I was on holiday in January this year, when I received the humbling news that I was a match. I had an admittedly heavy one the night before, I was on a bus, it was early morning, and I was tired. I had no Wi-Fi, my phone signal was weak, and the bus was packed.
About half way into my not-so-enjoyable journey I received an unexpected phone call. Half-expecting to hear about an alleged car accident that I am supposed to have had, as soon as I heard the words, “This is Anthony Nolan calling, and we’re ringing to inform you that you are a potential match,” my heart skipped a beat. My miserable morning soon turned into one of the most happy and exciting mornings of my life.
When you are told you’re a match, a myriad of different emotions run through your body. When a rare, once-in-a-lifetime decision hits you with the force of a thousand bricks, you really don’t know how to react. But once it sank in that I would have the opportunity to potentially save a life, I was 100% on board. It was a no-brainer. It was something I had to do.
A pleasant, normal day
I donated two months later on March 22. Hearing the words ‘stem cell transplant’ may sound daunting at first, but I found donating to be very pleasant and the whole process went swimmingly. From start to finish, everything is arranged for you by the wonderful staff at Anthony Nolan, who tell you exactly where to be and when. All you have to do is show up! Along with the nurses and all the medical team, they really let you know that you are doing a good thing and make you feel like donating is just another normal day.
The actual procedure took about 5-6 hours, but the time flew by thanks to the kindness of all the nurses. I was allowed to watch TV, I chatted with the nurses and other donors, and had copious amounts of food and drink.
I left the hospital feeling that I had been shown care, courtesy and comfort. Although I had to return the next day as the initial procedure did not get all the stem cells that were needed for my recipient, my experience was so seamless that I actually looked forward to returning.
Finding a sense of peace
Mentally and emotionally, I felt an immense sense of pride knowing that a little bit of me had given a complete stranger a chance of life. There really is no comparable feeling, truly.
I can honestly say that the whole experience has given me a sense of peace today. Knowing that the things I take for granted in life are the things that someone else is praying for is a big realisation. It is truly a life-changing experience for both the donor and recipient.
Physically, it was like a normal day. Like any medical procedure, there can be side effects and these are explained thoroughly at every step of the donation process. However, I was fortunate in that I did not experience any. Of course, every donor will react differently to stem cell donation, but I felt 100% confident that I was in safe hands throughout the entire process and support was there if I needed it.
All it costs is time
The only thing donating costs you is your time, but to someone else it could mean the difference between life and death. There are times in life where there is nothing that we can do to save a devastating situation, but Anthony Nolan gives you the chance to change that. So, I ask: why wouldn’t you donate?