‘It’s the single most upsetting, terrifying and heart-breaking experience we as parents have ever been through’
Ex On The Beach star and ex footballer Ashley Cain, and his girlfriend Safiyya, are calling for more people to sign up as potential stem cell donors, with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan. His 12-week-old daughter was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of leukaemia at just eight-weeks-old and will now need a stem cell transplant, from a stranger, if she is to be cured.
Azaylia Diamond Cain was born on the 10th August and was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia just four weeks ago. Prior to her diagnosis, Ashley and his girlfriend Safiyya, had noticed that Azaylia’s stomach was swollen and she was also having problems breathing, so took her to see a doctor. They were originally told that her swollen stomach was due to colic and her breathing troubles were due to a blocked nose. She was prescribed a nasal spray to help with this.
As her symptoms started to get worse, the couple called 111, who immediately sent an ambulance to their house. After several tests in hospital, Ashley and Safiyya received the devastating news that their, then, eight-week-old daughter had leukaemia.
Ashley said: ‘You know your own child and we knew she wasn’t well. she has a rare and aggressive form leukaemia that’s made even rarer by her being only eight-weeks-old when she was diagnosed. She has tumours on her lungs, stomach and kidneys.
Ashley said: ‘Finding out that your baby has a serious and life-threatening illness is something no parent in the world should have to go through. It was the single most upsetting, terrifying and heart-breaking experience we have ever been through. Something that is not only incomprehensible, but it also has a devastating impact on our physical and mental health.’
Azaylia started chemotherapy and responded well to treatment. However, this week, Ashley and Safiyya were told that due to the aggressive nature of her cancer, she will need a stem cell transplant if she is to be cured.
Anthony Nolan is searching the stem cell register for a special stranger, somewhere in the world, who could save Azaylia’s life.
Ashley said: ‘She was very poorly when we first arrived in hospital and we knew her chances were very low, but she has done so well with the treatment. She’s been amazing but now she needs a stem cell donor.
‘She’s learning how to smile, babble and grip on to things. All these milestones that babies reach, but she’s doing it all in hospital. She’s always smiling, she’s a joy to be around every day.
‘When she was first diagnosed I felt like I was dreaming, life didn’t seem real, just knowing that your child could potentially loose their life before your own can’t be described, but the only thing we can do to help our daughter is be as positive as possible. That’s the only thing we can do.’
Azaylia has Caribbean, Indian and northern European ethnicity. Currently patients, like Azaylia, from mixed ethnic backgrounds, have a 20% chance of finding an unrelated stem cell donor match, compared to 69% for people with white, European heritage.
Ashley said: ‘It’s out of Azaylia’s hands now, she’s almost climbed this mountain, but she now needs someone else’s hand to help her get to the top. She can’t do this on her own, she needs a donor.’
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.
They also carry out ground-breaking research to save more lives and provide information and support to patients after a stem cell transplant, through its clinical nurse specialists and psychologists, who help guide patients through their recovery.
Rebecca Pritchard, who leads the Register Development team at Anthony Nolan said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support Ashley and Safiyya their search for a donor for Azaylia, during this difficult time. We are extremely grateful to Ashley for using his platform to raise awareness of the need for more stem cell donors. Every single person who signs up to the register has the potential to give hope to someone, like Azaylia, who is in desperate need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant.
‘We’re particularly calling on people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and young men aged 16-30, to join the register. Young men provide more than 50% of all stem cell donations but make up just 18% of our register. Together, we can work towards a future where nobody is waiting for their match.’
To find about more about joining the Anthony Nolan register, or to find out more about the different ways you can support, please visit www.anthonynolan.org/Azaylia
People aged 31 – 55 can join bit.ly/DKMS_Azaylia