A YOUNG cancer patient is urging his peers to consider signing up as stem cell donors.
Ben Doyle, 20, who will likely rely on a donor in future as he continues his fight against multiple myeloma, has spoken to the Manx Independent about his illness in the hope it will inspire young men to donate.
‘They really need people in the 18 to 30 category and I hope me talking about this will encourage people to do it,’ said Ben.
‘I just want to get the message across that donating doesn’t hurt. I’ve had it done and it’s not painful at all. It’s like giving blood.’
The charity Anthony Nolan is holding a donor recruitment drive on September 21, between 10am and 4pm, at Crowe Morgan’s office at 6-8 St George’s Street, Douglas.
Ben is fully behind the charity as it tries to grow its register from 420,000 potential donors to one million.
At present men in the 18 to 30 age bracket account for just 12 per cent of the register.
The timing of Ben’s message is particularly poignant, as the island hosts hundreds of young athletes – in the Commonwealth Youth Games – about to enter the crucial age range for donors.
Ben lives with mum Mary and dad Steve in Saddlestone, Braddan. He has two brothers Conor, 21, who is studying in America, and Sean, 17, who is a student at Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel. Both have been tested to see if they can donate for Ben but they are not compatible.
In June he had an autologous stem cell transplant, which means his own stem cells were used. For this, he spent three-and-a-half weeks in the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
This kind of transplant is the first step for patients with multiple myeloma, a blood/bone cancer, similar to leukaemia.
As a result of his transplant, Ben is in remission but multiple myeloma generally returns at some point after the first transplant and so the next step would be an allogeneic stem cell transplant, which is one from a donor.
Most people with multiple myeloma are a lot older than Ben and so the issue of a donor transplant might not be an option, unless the autologous transplant doesn’t work.
Ben’s doctors, however, are looking at the big picture and a cure. They are still discussing whether a donor transplant should be carried out as soon as a donor is found, even if Ben is still in remission, or whether waiting would be a better option as there are bigger risks with a donor transplant, including rejection.
Ben’s illness was identified by chance, when he broke his arm the night after his 18th birthday. An x-ray showed he had a solitary cytoma, which had weakened the bone and made it break more easily.
He underwent a course of radiotherapy at Clatterbridge Hospital in October 2009 and had regular check ups afterwards.
In September 2010 he began a course in entertainment management at Leeds University but at a check up that month he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
This required a different course of treatment and so he left university and began six months of chemotherapy.
‘Most of the doctors hadn’t seen it before in someone so young, so it was a bit strange,’ said Ben.
Some of Ben’s friends don’t even know he has been ill. He is a regular music festival goer and recently went to the Leeds Festival.
‘The whole time I have never felt like I’ve had it, it has only been the treatment that has made me feel ill,’ he said. ‘It has never affected me, I still get out and do sport.’
Earlier this year Anthony Nolan launched GET10K, a campaign to recruit 10,000 young men aged 18-30 to the register.
To join the register, you must be aged between 18 and 40, weigh over eight stone and be in general good health. If you cannot make it to the recruitment event on September 21, you can register online at www.anthonynolan.org/spit or visit www.anthonynolan.org/get10 to join the GET10K campaign.
For more information about Anthony Nolan, visit www.anthonynolan.org or call 0303 303 0303.