(l-r) Simon, Jonny and Josh Parker
Young Geordies have the opportunity to sign up as stem cell donors with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan this week to support an appeal for a 21-year-old economics student who is receiving treatment for blood cancer.
In August 2018 Jonny Parker was given the news he had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a rare type of blood cancer. The keen runner had been struggling to improve on his 5k times.
Jonny says: ‘We thought it was a shoulder injury. I had a lump which didn’t disappear after my shoulder got better.
‘I thought that I’d get over it, but mum noticed that I just wasn't well. I was sleeping all the time, and just not myself. She booked an emergency appointment with my GP, who was amazing.’
Jonny was taken to A&E in Scarborough, where he was given blood tests to rule out an infection. He was then taken by ambulance to York Hospital, which was where the term ‘cancer’ was first mentioned.
‘My family honed in on “cancer”, but at that point I was still thinking in terms of it being a bad infection. But then doctors started talking about lymphoma and leukaemia.
‘When doctors confirmed it was leukaemia seeing my mum and my girlfriend react was hard. Then I had to stay in hospital, but they left.’
Jonny completed five cycles of chemotherapy which put him into remission. However, in May 2019, his leukaemia returned.
Jonny is currently being treated with regular cycles of chemotherapy. He needs a stem cell transplant: cells from a healthy person, with the same tissue type, to replace and repair his own damaged cells.
Jonny says: ‘I’m having very intense chemotherapy. Usually, when you feel unwell and are sick, you feel a bit better afterwards. You don’t feel any better when you’re sick while having chemo – it’s non-stop.
‘At times it’s hard for me to even get out of bed. I have to have somebody to physically help me up and there are things I can’t do for myself, which is hard.’
Many of Jonny’s friends have joined the stem cell register, inspired by his Facebook updates. He says: ‘When I share updates on Facebook I receive lots of messages from people asking how they can help and so many of my friends have signed up to be stem cell donors. They were surprised at how simple it was… just a swab of the mouth, and you might be a match for somebody one day.’
Jonny’s dad, Simon, works for the housing association Home Group. The company’s Newcastle office is getting behind the appeal by holding events which are open to the public to encourage people to join the Anthony Nolan Register.
Simon says: ‘When we were told it was AML it was too big a piece of a news to take in. I had a wobble a few days after Jonny was diagnosed – I cried for a couple of hours solidly. I just thought “Why my child?” I was devastated for him. Then I then picked myself up – Jonny’s so positive so I had no excuse not to be.
‘My energy is on supporting Jonny, and we’ve been encouraging as many people as we can to join the Anthony Nolan register.’
Lynsey Dickson, Regional Register Development Manager for the North East says: ‘Every day, five people like Jonny will start their search for a matching stranger who might save their life. Each person who signs up has the potential to help save someone 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.’
People aged 16-30 can join the register online at www.anthonynolan.org/join4jonny or by attending the following events:
Wednesday 3rd July – 11am – 3pm: