As we close out women’s month and celebrate all that makes us superwomen, we do so with the intent to appreciate the small things in life that bring us joy, our families, health, and most importantly life. Our bodies carry with them all the memories and aspirations we hold privately, while many of us feel blessed each day for the vitality of life and continued health because we know that not everyone shares that reality.
While we forge towards commemorating all that defines each of us as women, particularly women of colour, it is important that we remember to observe Bone Marrow and Leukaemia Awareness Month, which commences from August 15 to October 15, with the sole purpose of continuing the fight against life-threatening blood disorders, as well as saving lives.
Every 72 minutes, one South African is diagnosed with a blood cancer or a blood disorder; this includes both children and adults. Additionally, due to underrepresentation on the donor global registry, Black, Coloured, Indian, and Asian patients have only a 19% chance of finding a blood stem cell donor match. We never really think about these life-threatening illnesses, where in some cases, a family member might not be the obvious choice for a match.
Statistics have and continue to show that only 30% of patients are able to find a compatible donor within their family. For blood cancer and blood disorder patients, the chances of finding a match remain 1 in 100 000 and, without a match, those diagnosed cannot receive the transplant they need.
According to the National Cancer Institute, a peripheral blood stem cell transplant is a procedure where the patient receives healthy blood-forming cells (stem cells) to replace their own stem cells that have been destroyed by disease, radiation, as well as by high doses of anticancer drugs prescribed to patients as part of the procedure. These healthy stem cells may come from the blood of the matched donor. Stem cells replenish throughout adulthood and so the donor’s cells will continue to restore themselves as the body naturally reproduces them and blood is returned to the body.
By registering as a donor, you can save the lives of many people, whether you know them or not. Registration is free and only takes five minutes and welcomes everyone. No matter your blood type, you can get involved, provided you are between the ages of 18 and 55 years old. Once you have registered, a simple health screening will be done before the procedure takes place to ensure your safety and health status before you can proceed with the donation.
All life is precarious and it is critical for us to live healthier and more fulfilling lives and ensure that our society reflects a sense of community as well as our aspirations for each other. Every day, we verbalize words of affirmation to become better at who we are as we map out our future. As women, we breathe life and love in all the spaces we occupy with the hope that we raise children and build homes in a society that values life in spite of the enormous challenges we face.
Let’s come together and stand united in this fight against blood cancers and blood disorders. Register to be a donor on dkms-africa.org You could be the one someone is waiting for.