Lib Dems mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month

It’s just a few short month since Jo Swinson lost her dad, Peter, to Blood Cancer. I met Peter many times while helping out with Jo’s campaigns over the years. He was such a lovely, kind man who was clearly so proud of her. Both he and her Mum Annette put so much effort into supporting Jo and having their home taken over by all sorts of random Lib Dems over the years. They were always so friendly and welcoming to us.

Jo ran the London Marathon and raised thousands of pounds for Bloodwise back in 2011. This just shows Jo’s indefatigability. Looking back on it, I’ve just realised that this was a few a few weeks before the 2011 Holyrood election and a few more weeks before her wedding.

What she chose not to share publicly at that point is that Peter had been diagnosed with Blood Cancer in 2008. He kept in reasonably good health until 2015 but then had to undergo several gruelling rounds of treatment.

Yesterday, Jo took over the Bloodwise Twitter account to tell her family’s story.

She talked about the impact of the initial diagnosis:

More spells of chemo and new diagnoses followed, but he saw a happy occasion earlier this year:

We send our love to Jo and her family. I am sure they all know how highly Peter was thought of within the party.

Christine Jardine has also been highlighting the issue of Blood Cancer and in particular the work of Anthony Nolan in her column in the Scotsman.

She mentioned in her article a young woman who died within days of being diagnosed with Leukaemia back in the 80s. I have never forgotten a former editor of Aberdeen University’s student newspaper, the Gaudie, who died within a few days of being diagnosed in the 1980s. It turns out that Christine’s colleague and my fellow student were the same person. Fiona’s death inspired me to join the Anthony Nolan register and I was incredibly proud to get a text from my son last week to say that he had signed up too.

Christine explained why it is important that we do:

Two thousand people every year need a stem cell or bone marrow transplant in the UK. Only 60 per cent of them get the best possible donor. And when you break down the donor statistics, you can see clearly the gaps and what is needed.

Of those amazing donors in Edinburgh, only 34 per cent are male, and what is missing across the UK is a significant number of non-white and mixed-race donors. And while more than half of the donated stem cells and bone marrow come from males aged 16 to 30 they make up less than a quarter of the register.

The imbalance in what the register has and what it needs is clear. What is key now in the battle against blood cancers is to encourage people from these backgrounds and age group to register as stem cell donors, a process which is now much more straightforward than most of us imagine.

September has been Blood Cancer Awareness Month. The Anthony Nolan charity visited parliament and at our party conference last week I sat down with one of their representatives to hear about the issue they face.

The organisation is clear that there is still a mountain to climb in improving the outcomes and quality of life their patients need and deserve. As we parted I thought about that little boy on That’s Life and the mother who had fought so hard for him, and for others.

Their situation at the time had seemed particularly cruel. There was a solution for Anthony – a bone marrow transplant – but finding that donor then involved a search much harder than the cliched rummaging through a mountain of hay for a small needle.

That the register Shirley Nolan established has come so far and achieved so much is a tribute to both mother and son. And despite their personal loss they have ensured thousands of lives have been saved, and thousands of families have reason to remember Anthony Nolan.

And finally, on 12th September, Lib Dem blogger Tim Holyoake had a stem cell transplant from one of his own cells. You can read his account of his last three years of living with Lymphoma here.

Today’s post, Delete Blood Cancer, is all about what you can do to help. He highlights the work of DKMS, who share the same register as Anthony Nolan so people don’t need to sign up to both. Here’s the video he’s posted about their work.

We wish Tim well as he recovers at home.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

  • As someone who survived a transplant, and as a result was able to walk my three daughters down the aisle, my heart goes out to Jo and her family.

    I’d also like to remember my dear friend Jim Reid, Vice Chairman of the National League of Young Liberals, who died in the autumn of 1964. It was my privilege to take Jim on his last outing from hospital when we went to the October 1964 Liberal Assembly at Central Hall just before the 64 election when Jo Grimond made his “March my troops towards the sound of gunfire speech. I’ll never forget that Jo stopped to greet Jim on his way out of the building. RIP Jim.

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