The mother of two five-year old twins desperately needs a stem cell transplant to treat acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer. Meena Kumari-Sharma and her family are campaigning to raise awareness of the need to recruit more donors to the Anthony Nolan register.
Meena, 41, is an active mother who enjoys outdoor activities with her children. She is a positive spirit with a keen passion for art and oil painting. Meena is also appealing to the Asian community to join the stem cell register. Given her Indian heritage, Meena's donor will most likely be found in the Asian community, but her family are urging all who can, to sign up.
Meena was first diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in March. She initially responded well to chemotherapy but, unfortunately, a week later she received devastating news: her cancer had returned as acute myeloid leukemia. Meena and her family were told by doctors that she would need a stem cell transplant: cells from a healthy person, with the same tissue type, to replace and repair her own damaged cells.
Meena, mum to five-year-old twins Mia and Krish, said, 'I was devastated by the news that my condition had deteriorated and immediately worried for my twins. I just want to get better so that I can watch them grow up.'
Meena has two siblings who were tested as potential donors, however were not suitable matches. Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan sprang into action, and is now actively searching the international stem cell registries for a matching donor.
Meena is very concerned about the shortage of people of Asian heritage on the stem cell donor register. Her British-Indian (Punjabi) background makes the search more challenging. She is sending out a plea for donors from around the world, especially people from Asian backgrounds to sign up to the Anthony Nolan's register to give hope to families like hers in the future.
Meena said, 'To find out there is a shortage of potential donors from my background is astounding. To try to help improve the situation for other people who find themselves in my situation, I would like to encourage families to find out more about stem cell donation. By engaging with local communities and their networks to recruit more people to Anthony Nolan register.'
Meena and her family would like to raise awareness of the challenges in finding donor matches for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Patients from these backgrounds are less likely to find a matching stem cell donor. Currently, only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match, and this drops dramatically to around 20% (one in five of transplant recipients) if you're from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.
Meena has launched a worldwide appeal via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #Match4Meena in a bid to encourage more people from a range of backgrounds to consider joining the stem cell register.
Rebecca Sedgwick, National Recruitment Manger at Anthony Nolan said: 'We are doing everything we can to support Meena and her family in their search for a lifesaving stem cell donor.
'Every day five people, like Meena, will start their search for a matching stranger who might save their life. Every single person who joins the Anthony Nolan register has the potential to help save someone like Meena. We urgently need more people aged 16-30, and from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, to sign up and give people hope.
'We are also appealing for more men to join the register. Young men provide more than 55% of all stem cell donations but currently make up just 18% of the Anthony Nolan register; if we can encourage more young men to consider joining, we will be able to save even more lives.'
Join the stem cell register at anthonynolan.org/join