A father from County Down is calling for more people to sign up as potential stem cell donors, after his son was told he urgently needs a stem cell transplant to treat his cancer.
Thomas Cafolla, 22, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in October 2017. He had just begun a placement year in London, as part of his hospitality course at Ulster University, when he started feeling unwell.
Thomas’ father Michael said: ‘He was having night sweats and feeling particularly tired, but initially we put it down to a change in environment and the stress of working in a busy hotel.
‘Thomas’ mum had gone to visit him in London and he mentioned that he’d found a lump near his collarbone. This sent alarm bells ringing and she went with him to a nearby walk-in centre. After seeing a doctor Thomas was sent straight to hospital, where he had various tests to rule out other illness, before they diagnosed him with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
‘It was a lot to process and take in, none of it seems real.’
Thomas returned to Belfast for treatment so he could be close to his family. After two rounds of chemotherapy Thomas was told he would need a stem cell transplant from a matching donor, if he was to be cured of his cancer.
His three siblings have been tested to see if they could be suitable to donate their stem cells to Thomas but unfortunately none of them are a match. Thomas is now looking for a stranger to save his life – Anthony Nolan have sprung into action and are now searching for a matching donor.
Thomas said: ‘I never thought I would be diagnosed with cancer but my parents have been helping me deal with everything that is happening and my dog is a good distraction.
‘Joining the Anthony Nolan register is a simple process, it’s just a cheek swab but it could change the life of someone like me.’
Michael added: ‘By joining the Anthony Nolan register you have the opportunity to save someone’s life. We know that lots of people have signed up after hearing Thomas’ story but we also know that more young people are always needed.’
Amy Bartlett, Regional Development Manager for Northern Ireland, said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support Thomas and his family in their search for a lifesaving stem cell donor. Every day, five people, like Thomas, will start their search for a matching stranger who might save their life.
‘Every single person who signs up has the potential to help save someone like Thomas, who is in desperate need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant. We’re particularly calling on young men aged 16-30 to consider joining the Anthony Nolan register as young men provide 50% of all stem cell donations but make up just 18% of our register.’
Anthony Nolan recruits people aged 16-30 to the stem cell register as research has shown younger people are more likely to be chosen to donate. It also costs £40 to recruit each potential donor to the register, so Anthony Nolan relies on financial support.
To find about more about joining the Anthony Nolan register, or to find out more about the different ways you can support, visit anthonynolan.org/join