On average, people in the UK say ‘thank you’ 59 times a day, whether that’s walking through a door someone’s opened for you, accepting change over a shop counter or a cuppa from someone doing a tea run.
But what about the times when ‘thank you’ is just so hard to say?
This is often the case for people with blood cancer who have had a stem cell transplant – the words ‘thank you’ never seem enough when speaking to someone who has saved your life.
To mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we worked with world-renowned portrait photographer Rankin to capture the power – and the limitations – of saying thank you. His photos sensitively capture the struggle of six people trying to find the words to say ‘thank you’ to the lifesaving stem cell donors who transformed their lives.
Anie waited months for a matching donor. Seeing others find a match, she realised that she had less chance of finding someone coming from a minority ethnic background. Her hope slowly turned to despair. Five years on, doctors would tell her that she was cured.
Holly longed for life to feel 'normal' again in the months before her seven-year-old son Rupert had a stem cell transplant. she said: 'You dream of being able to say "come on, put your shoes on, we're going to be late for school!"'. Fortunately, Rupert's transplant saved his life, and today Holly can keep hurrying him out the door for school.
‘My donor saved all of us’. That’s how Joanna described the impact her stem cell donor had on her family. Before finding a match, Joanna was told by doctors she only had two months to live without a stem cell transplant. She even planned her own funeral. But thankfully, life couldn’t be any more different today…
12 years ago, Kathryn was told she had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Since then she has had two stem cell transplants – one from her sister and one from an Anthony Nolan donor – and a liver transplant as part of her treatment. She once thought she was going to pass away at the age of just 16, but because of her donors, that changed.
Naa Yeye described it as ‘hell’ to receive months of treatment while all her friends were moving on with the next stage of their lives. But after discovering he was a match for her, Naa Yeye’s older brother Duncan didn’t hesitate to donate his stem cells to her. She said about him: ‘Without him, there is no me.’
Told he needed a stem cell transplant just before graduating from university, Sam recalled the frustration of waiting for a match, and the sheer joy he felt when a donor was finally found. He had a lifesaving transplant in 2017. Afterwards, it took him three days to write a letter to his donor, an anonymous German man.
Though it might not always be easy to say – a sincere thank you from Anthony Nolan to our incredible supporters and stem cell donors who together save the lives of people with blood cancer. Without you, there is no cure.
NOT JUST 'THANK YOU'
'One of my friends right now needs a donor, and the fact that she may never have the chance to thank somebody for saving her life – it just breaks my heart. So whilst I'm saying thank you, I'm also saying please…’ – Anie
A stem cell transplant is the last chance of survival for someone like Anie or her friend.
But you can give them hope for the future and the chance to say the biggest thank you of their life. For every £40 raised, we can recruit another potential donor to our stem cell register. Thank you, and please give a gift to support Anthony Nolan’s lifesaving work today.