A father from Milton Keynes, is taking on an 80-mile cycle ride on Saturday 24th July for charity Anthony Nolan, in memory of his wife who sadly died from blood cancer. He wants to raise much needed funds for the charity and encourage people from minority ethnic backgrounds to join the stem cell register.
Bharat Miangar, 61, who works at a technology company, lost his wife, Sangita, to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, in December 2015 when she was just 48-years-old. To mark five years since her death, he has gathered together a group of 25 riders to participate in his cycling challenge, including his two sons Kiran, 26, and Joel, 21, and the consultant who treated Sangita at Oxford Churchill Hospital. The 80-mile route will take them from Milton Keynes, around Buckinghamshire and Berkshire before returning back to the family’s home in Milton Keynes
Bharat said: ‘Sangita was first diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008. She was treated with chemotherapy and we were so happy when we found out that her treatment had worked and she was cancer free, but she sadly relapsed just a year later.’
Following further chemotherapy, doctors decided that Sangita’s best chance of survival would be to have a stem cell transplant. Her siblings weren’t a match for her, so Anthony Nolan searched their stem cell donor register for a stranger who could give Sangita a second chance of life. Unfortunately, a match could not be found, so following recommendations from her hospital team she had an ‘autologous’ transplant, which involved using her own stem cells rather than donor cells.
Bharat said: ‘Following her transplant Sangita was cancer free until December 2014, when blood tests revealed that her cancer had returned yet again. This time she had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, an even more aggressive form of blood cancer. Anthony Nolan found her a donor and her transplant took place in July 2015. The transplant was successful but she sadly died from complications just eleven weeks later.
‘It was very difficult to find a donor for Sangita. You ideally want to find a perfect match, a 12/12 match, but a perfect match couldn’t be found. Sangita was from South Asian descent, and I know this would have impacted her chances. However, a less than perfect match was her only option of survival and we were recommended to go ahead with the donor in Germany.’
Only 37% of transplant recipients from minority ethnic backgrounds receive the best stem cell donor match from an unrelated donor. This is compared to 72% of patients from white Caucasian backgrounds.
A person’s stem cell match is most likely to come from someone with the same ethnic background as them. Because of this, Anthony Nolan desperately needs more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to join the register.
Bharat is hoping his cycle ride will raise funds to support Anthony Nolan’s work to diversify its register, so the charity can find matching stem cell donors for all patients in need of lifesaving stem cell transplants, regardless of their ethnicity. He is currently aiming to raise £2,500.
Professor Parash Vyas, professor and consultant of haematology at the University of Oxford, was Sangita’s consultant during her treatment and he will also be joining Bharat to take part in the cycling challenge.
Parash said: ‘I am just so super supportive of what Bharat is doing. It’s hugely important for all patients to find a donor.’
Kirsty Mooney, Head of Supporter Led Fundraising at Anthony Nolan, said, ‘We are delighted that Bharat and his team of 25 riders are taking on this incredible cycling challenge. The funds they raise will enable us to recruit potential stem cell donors to the Anthony Nolan register – any one of whom could give a second chance of life to someone with blood cancer.’