BACK in November 2015, Army&You spoke to Major Mandy Islam about her battle with a rare form of blood cancer and desire to raise awareness about the condition.
Two years on and Mandy, who is continuing with her chemotherapy treatment, is calling on the Forces community to consider signing up as blood stem cell donors to provide potentially life-saving help to cancer patients.
As part of Blood Cancer Awareness month, which is taking place this September, Mandy is asking potential donors to register with Anthony Nolan (aged 16-30) or DKMS (aged 17-55) and conduct a home-based cheek swab or spittle test via mail order. There is only a three per cent chance of being called forward for stem cell donation and you can change your mind at any time.
She said: “The [stem cell donation] procedure is pretty painless, taking only four-to-six hours of your time. There are two methods of collecting stem-cells. The first is via the bloodstream and the second, although rare, via the pelvis – taking less time [and] done under general anaesthetic.”
“Within each of us, we have the gift of life, be that through stem cell donoring or organ donation. We in Defence are in a unique position to help as we are generally young and healthy. Moreover we are a community [with a] ‘can do attitude’ – we see problems and want to fix them.”
Mandy now works as the lead for the Defence People with Significant Illness project looking at how Defence leads, manages and supports Service personnel and civil servants with chronic conditions such as cancer, MS, mental health issues and ME.
Her support for Blood Cancer Awareness Month is brought into sharp focus by the statistics surrounding the condition. Some 70 people a day – or 25,000 people a year – are told they have a form of blood cancer and for most, the only way to survive is to undergo a stem cell transplant
MOD civil servant Andy Helliwell added: “Access to stem cell and transplant treatments is a diversity issue – demand for these treatments outstrips supply for particular groups, including black and Asian communities and young men under 30.
“I hope initiatives like this will raise awareness and help address this imbalance”.