A popular figure in London’s Greek Community and owner of a long-standing South Wimbledon restaurant, is urging more people with Greek or Cypriot heritage to join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register after being diagnosed with blood cancer.
Zac Zacharia, 63, from South Wimbledon in South London urgently needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant to treat his acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Zac and his family are working with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan to raise awareness of the need for more Greek Cypriot stem cell donors during Blood Cancer Awareness Month.
Zac, who enjoys spending his free time at the gym and helping his local community, was diagnosed with ALL in August. He has been supported by his family, including his wife Lula son, Christopher, 31 and sister-in-law, Vasoulla. Upon diagnosis, Zac was told by his medical team that although chemotherapy could help halt the spread of cancer, his only hope of a cure was through a stem cell transplant. Doctors need to give Zac new stem cells through his bloodstream which will grow and create healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to cure his ALL.
Anthony Nolan is now searching the worldwide network of stem cell registers for a person who is a close genetic match to Zac, and who is willing to donate their stem cells to save his life. However, the search is made more difficult due to Zac’s Greek Cypriot heritage, as he will most likely need a matching donor with a similar background.
Speaking of his diagnosis, Zac, who’s currently being treated in St George’s hospital, Tooting, says: ‘I was brought into hospital last week, after three mini strokes.
‘No-one was expecting the test results to reveal the cause of the illness as leukaemia, but when they did, I was immediately transferred over to the cancer unit to begin urgent chemotherapy.
‘The doctors have said that a stem cell transplant will be needed in the next three to four months, but there’s not currently a donor for me on the register.
‘My wife Lula was on the register, as blood cancer affected a young family member of ours. And I know it’s one of those things that you think will never happen to you, but it could be you, or your brother or sister, needed that donor match.
‘If you’re deliberating over whether to join the stem cell register, I will say this: do it. Because you can save someone’s life. And it will make you feel good’.
Rebecca Pritchard, Director of Register Development at Anthony Nolan says: ‘Last month, Zac was manning his popular fish and chip bar in South Wimbledon, completely unaware of the challenges that lay ahead. Last week, he joined the five people a day, who start their search for an unrelated stem cell donor.
‘Nobody should be told that, because of their ethnicity, there is less likely to be a matching stem cell donor for them. We’re working hard to change this, and are calling on young men aged 16-30 from Greek and Cypriot backgrounds to join the register. One day you could be matched to a patient in need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant and bring hope to someone like Zac. If you’re over 31 and want to help, please consider funding a lifesaver for someone like Zac. It cost £40 to recruit a new donor onto the register, so your help is invaluable in giving patients more chance of finding the best possible match.’
People aged 16-30 can join the Anthony Nolan register online at anthonynolan.org/zac if they are in good general health.
Anthony Nolan also needs more men aged 16–30 to sign up as they are underrepresented on the register. Young men currently account for only 18% of the charity’s register, but they make up an astonishing 55% of all people asked to donate
Find out more about Anthony Nolan at www.anthonynolan.org