Anthony Nolan marked World Cancer Day on Thursday February 4 with a live discussion showcasing how, every day, the blood cancer charity matches individuals willing to donate their blood stem cells or bone marrow to people with blood cancer and blood disorders who desperately need lifesaving transplants.
Rian Harvey, who received a lifesaving stem cell transplant in 2015 and Carney Bonner, who donated stem cells in 2019, were joined by actor Tom Austen, who is one of 800,000 people currently on the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor register.
The trio came together to discuss how the feeling of invincibility may be stopping us all from valuing the little things, and how accepting our vulnerability can allow us to enjoy a more positive and meaningful life.
Tom, who most recently appeared in Helstrom says: ‘I’m so proud to support Anthony Nolan and, as I’m on the register I was really looking forward to hearing from Rian and Carney about their experiences – as a young man who has received a stem cell transplant and a young man who has donated their stem cells.
‘I was blown away by their openness and I learned a lot from them. I’m passionate about getting other people to join the Anthony Nolan family and raising awareness of the vital work that the charity does every day.’
Rian says: ‘I was really excited for this chat and have been exploring so many lessons I’ve learnt from it all which I was really keen to share with those watching.
‘‘When I was diagnosed with cancer, one of my friends told me it was a wake up call to kids at school that, as teenagers, we’re not invincible. It was a wake up call for me too. After my transplant, I tried to shut out my experiences as much as I could. Then, during lockdown, I started reading stories about people who’d been through difficult times in their life and how it motivated them. It gave me an idea - to start using my experience as a positive force to help others.’
Carney says: ‘I jumped at the chance to be part of this when I was asked. It would be amazing if it helps to educate people about the register and inspire them to join!
‘When Anthony Nolan got in touch with me to say I was a potential match I was shocked - in a good way. I just thought “Wow, what are the chances that I'd be a match for a complete stranger, someone I don’t know, never met.” It’s amazing. It’s really great to be able to do something like this.
‘I recently learned that if you’re from a minority ethnic background you are much less likely to find a match on the register. I think that’s shocking and it sort of makes me feel scared that if I was ever in that situation, I’d only have a small chance of finding a donor. That’s not right. We need to do something about it and there is something we can do - we just need more people from those backgrounds on the register.’
For someone with blood cancer, a stem cell transplant could be their last chance of survival. Anthony Nolan makes lifesaving connections between people with blood cancer and incredible strangers who donate their stem cells. It also carries out pioneering research to save more lives and provides information and support to patients after a stem cell transplant, through its clinical nurse specialists and psychologists, who help guide patients through their recovery.
Find out more about Anthony Nolan’s work at www.anthonynolan.org