A 25 year-old writer and his girlfriend have been left astounded as their Twitter followers have donated over £55,000 in a week to blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan - and the figure is still rising by the minute.
There have been donations from countries all around the world, including the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Romania.
In addition, over 1,400 people applied to join the stem cell register during the same week - 46% up on normal.
He has since tweeted: ‘My jaw is now permanently dropped, it may require wiring. Surely no-one has ever had such a completely uplifting first evening of chemotherapy. I am just sitting staring at the donations list and trying not to cry. You are all incredible.’
Talented young journalist John Underwood, 25, was diagnosed with a very rare, late-stage lymphoma just three weeks ago. It is a form of lymphoma which only affects young men and teenage boys, and doctors told him there had only been 200 cases on record. John is now receiving chemotherapy but it is possible he will need a stem cell transplant to cure him of the condition.
While he was undergoing his first chemotherapy session at Barts Hospital in London, he set up a JustGiving page from his hospital bed for blood cancer Anthony Nolan, ‘just in case someone had a fiver to spare.’
His girlfriend Ella Risbridger - who writes the successful food blog ‘Eating With My Fingers’- suggested he should tweet the link.
The result was astounding. Within 45 minutes, over £1,000 had been donated. By the morning, it had leapt up to £4,500. Many of their friends woke up today to find John and Ella had raised thousands of pounds while they were sleeping.
When he hit the £6,000 milestone, John tweeted:
*small voice* That's six grand, then. Sixty new donors. 4 rugby teams' worth of people who get another shot at life. https://t.co/c6C8pqosfS
— John (@JM_Underwood) August 4, 2015
Catherine Miles, Director of Fundraising at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘John and Ella have made an incredible and unprecedented impact on our work over the past week.
'We’re so moved by the response they are getting and it’s been heartwarming to read through the donations from friends and strangers alike.
'It truly is a testament to how many people are behind John during this difficult time, and what an inspirational couple John and Ella are.
'Over 1,500 people have now donated to John’s page from 17 countries all around the world, from Alaska to Australia, Dubai to Dublin.
'The money that John and Ella are raising will help us recruit many more stem cell donors, who could go on to save the life of a transplant patient.
'We hope everyone will keep supporting John and Ella, reading their blogs and sharing their fundraising page to help them reach their fundraising goal. Every pound helps save lives.'
John and Ella, who live together in Stepney, have been live tweeting much of John’s treatment ever since he was rushed to hospital two weeks ago with a vomiting bug. He was told soon afterwards that he had a form of blood cancer, and then last week it was confirmed as hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma.
He shared the news on Twitter on 23 July, saying:
As you may have guessed from my increasingly morose tweets, I was diagnosed with cancer last night. Huge pain in the arse, obviously.
— John (@JM_Underwood) July 23, 2015
John has since kept his followers updated with his trademark wit and stoicism; tweeting comments such as,
Just ate a chicken leg in bed, because I suspect I have never had a more consequence-free opportunity to behave like Henry VIII.
— John (@JM_Underwood) July 29, 2015
Got fruit shortcake, gingernuts AND custard creams with my tea. Someone must have heard that I'm poorly.
— John (@JM_Underwood) July 25, 2015
Friends and strangers alike began to follow his journey and sign up to the Anthony Nolan register. One friend, who runs Soho market-to-table delivery service Marky Market, is even offering free sausages to anyone who signs up to the register.
Mark White said: ‘John is the sweetest, kindest man you could ever meet, and he's facing up to this with the sort of pragmatism that I don't think I could muster. His altruism is equally incredible; his cancer is so rare that he's considering himself a valuable research case, should the worst happen. I don't want the worst to happen though, and that’s why I am encouraging as many people as possible to join the Anthony Nolan register.
'I'm well aware that this might cost me a fortune in Gloucester Old Spot bangers but, then again, that’s nothing if it means John or other people like him might get better.’
He wrote on his JustGiving page: ‘I can't in all honesty recommend 'find out you're maybe dying' as a general summer plan, but it does focus the mind wonderfully.
‘I've just started chemotherapy (and I do mean just - the second bag is in my arm as I type), and although my treatment has a very long way to go, my best shot at an eventual recovery will probably rest with Anthony Nolan. Anthony Nolan is a charity that finds stem cell transplants for people who, like me, have a cancer of the blood.
‘Stem cell transplants are properly, unfathomably futuristic stuff, and they offer the closest thing we have to a cure for cancer - a complete purge that replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells. Some people are lucky enough to have a stem cell match in their immediate family, but plenty don't, and that's where Anthony Nolan comes in.
‘Anthony Nolan has to spend a colossal amount of money on gathering stem cell samples, maintaining its amazing database and matching donors to people who need them. And whilst I know lots of friends and Twitterpals have already signed up as potential stem cell donors, which is AMAZING, there are lots more people who are for various reasons not eligible to donate but still keen to help.
‘I'm not going to do a fundraising event (at least for now), or shave my head (for anything other than selfish reasons, like not wanting to look like that wispy-haired woman in Shutter Island), but I am going to try really hard to not die, and whether I'm successful will very likely come down to the incredible work done by Anthony Nolan. So if you've got some saliva or a couple of quid to spare, do consider bunging it their way.
‘Thanks for reading,
‘John (currently not deceased) x ’
— John (@JM_Underwood) August 4, 2015
To donate to John’s JustGiving page for Anthony Nolan, go to https://www.justgiving.com/John-Underwood-Anthony-Nolan/
If you are between 16 and 30, you can join the Anthony Nolan register online by clicking on the button below. It's a short form that should take around 5 minutes to complete. Once it's done, we'll send you a spit kit in the post, which you then send back to us. Then we add you to our register as a potential donor.