A London woman who has been living with chronic leukaemia for twenty years is appealing for more South Asian people to register as stem cell donors.
Rajee Nedunchezhian, 33, of Newham in East London, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) at the age of twelve. Her condition has recently accelerated, meaning an urgent stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor is her best chance of a cure.
Rajee, a software engineer, and her husband Mani, an IT consultant in a hedge fund, moved to London in 2010 from their home in Chennai, India. Until now Rajee’s condition has been managed with drugs, but a recent test showed that her disease has progressed rapidly, with an increase in blast cells – abnormal white blood cells – in her bloodstream.
Mani is appealing for people from India and South Asia to join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register and see if they are a match for someone like Rajee. Currently, fewer than 4% of the people on the UK register are Asian, making it difficult to find a perfect match.
‘It’s going to be difficult to find Rajee a donor unless we have a lot more Asians on the register – that’s why we want to raise awareness,’ said Mani. ‘It takes very little effort to register and is almost painless to donate. I think everyone wants to do something good for others, and Anthony Nolan gives people that opportunity.’
He added, ‘My wife is ambitious and independent – nothing holds her back. Having cancer does limit what she can do. Pretty much everything in her life is affected by it. Travel, holidays, business trips, even whether or not the weather’s good can make a difference to what she can do. She has been fighting cancer since she was young but now she needs people’s support to win this battle. A transplant could give us our lives back.’
Mani ran the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2016, raising more than £6,500 for Anthony Nolan and raising awareness of the donor register.
Sarah Rogers, Register Development Manager at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘We urgently need more people from Indian and South Asian backgrounds to register as stem cell donors to make sure that everyone, regardless of background, can receive a second chance at life.
‘Donating stem cells is a straightforward process. Ninety per cent of people will donate via blood, while one in ten will be asked to donate via bone marrow under general anaesthetic. It’s easy to join up, and it could make a massive difference to someone with blood cancer.’
To find out more and join the Anthony Nolan register, visit www.anthonynolan.org/join. You must be aged 16-30 and in good health.
For more details on Rajee’s appeal, please visit https://healrajee.org/.