St Albans mum appeals for people from Asian backgrounds to become stem cell donors
PUBLISHED: 15:16 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:53 22 October 2018
A mum-of-two from St Albans with a rare form of blood cancer is campaigning to raise awareness of the need for stem cell donors.
Meena Kumari-Sharma, 41, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in March. She initially responded well to chemotherapy, but a week later was told her cancer had returned as acute myeloid leukaemia and that she would need a stem cell transplant.
Given her Indian heritage, Meena’s donor will most likely be found in the Asian community, and she is concerned about the shortage of people with Asian heritage on the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor register.
Meena, who is 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, but they were not suitable matches.
She 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.”
Currently only 69 per cent of transplant recipients receive the best match, but this drops to 20 per cent for people from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.
Meena has launched a worldwide appeal via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #Match4Meena, in a bid to encourage people from all backgrounds to consider registering as donors.
Anthony Nolan’s national recruitment manager Rebecca Sedgwick said: “We are doing everything we can to support Meena and her family in their search for a lifesaving stem cell donor.
“We urgently need more people aged 16-30, and from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, to sign up and give hope.
“We are also appealing for more men to join the register. Young men provide more than 55 per cent of all stem cell donations but currently make up just 18 per cent of the Anthony Nolan register; if we can encourage more young men to consider joining, we will be able to save even more lives.”
To register to donate your stem cells visit https://www.anthonynolan.org/8-ways-you-could-save-life/donate-your-stem-cells