This was taken 3 years ago – I am now significantly chubbier and John is significantly beardier.
So my new thing is listening to podcasts. I listen to them when I’m on my way to and from work and I hear some really interesting things, which I then force my pastry chef to listen to ALL DAY as we make brownies, ice-cream, plate desserts, etc. The other day, whilst listening to Freakonomics, I learned about living organ donors and put the question to my colleagues: would you donate your organs to a total stranger?
They mostly said no and their reasons were, “what if I need it later?” Or, “maybe for a family member…?” And that’s totally fair enough, they’re your organs, you can do what you want with them. I don’t have an answer to this question because I cannot donate organs, tissue or give blood and if you ask me, all of the noble feelings that I have towards humanity make me want to say yes, without hesitation. But that’s a hypothetical answer because I still can’t do it.
I have this lovely friend called John. We haven’t been great at seeing each other over the past couple of years – life has been busy for both of us, but we still try to keep up to date with each other through social media. John is a fabulously talented writer – we met when we both wrote for the same online magazine, we worked on a couple of pieces together, we ate some great food and drank some great drinks, he made me dinner at his home once which was one of the most enjoyable evenings of my adult life, I returned the favour a couple of times, and he and a few of his friends came to my 25th birthday in Central London. It’s been about 3 years since we last spent time together, John is now 25, and he found out last Wednesday that he has cancer.
Today I went to visit him in the hospital, was horribly, horribly late (because apparently outside of work I cannot keep time for toffee) and we chatted. We chatted about life over the past couple of years, he told me all about his lovely girlfriend Ella, he told me about the ups-and-downs of work, I told him a little about the ups-and-downs of my work, and, mostly, we talked about cancer. We talked about life, we talked about death, I gave Ella a big hug when she left for a bit, and I thought about how if I were in her position I wouldn’t have been able to sit there and listen to this conversation for the thousandth time, either. We talked about friends, we talked about family, and we discussed the good stuff and the bad stuff. I was there for a little over an hour, John was tired at the end of it and he still had plenty more visitors to come, so I left him with lemon tarts and his book, called TS on my way home and got on the bus.
John’s cancer is so rare that he tells me he’s something like only the 120th person in the world to have it. Because it’s so rare, there’s very little the doctors can tell him about his prognosis, but they tell him that he has responded very well to the steroids and when he starts chemo on Monday they feel very positive about this, too. John tells me he feels pretty good, all things considered – he’s been feeling pretty crappy the past few months, so now, on steroids and antibiotics, he’s not that bad. His mom visits every other day, Ella stays with him, reading Terry Pratchett, talking, reading Twitter, listening to other friends talking with John, being together. John takes selfies, Tweets about hospital food, the people around him, and his on-going treatment. Even whilst stuck in a hospital, fighting something that at age 25 he really shouldn’t have to, my friend is unfailingly funny, sweet, caring and honest. He half-jokingly quipped that if nothing else at least he’ll be a great addition to the research pool for his type of cancer, a cancer that only affects young men under 30. He told me before I left that it would be the greatest thing he would have accomplished with his life: I disagreed.
Anthony Nolan are a UK based charity who help people with blood cancer. They match living donors with those in need of transplants and, since being established in 1974, they have helped with 13,000 stem cell transplants. This is real life superhuman stuff – something which your body creates naturally and replaces naturally, can help save somebody else’s life. It’s a no-brainer, right? People like you can join the Anthony Nolan registry and, if you’re a match, you can help people like my lovely friend John. This great animation from Anthony Nolan shows you exactly what the process involves:
And for the girls, if you’re pregnant you can actually donate your umbilical cord blood after you’ve given birth, which normally gets thrown away anyway. Here’s another helpful animation which explains what’s going on:
I’ve talked before about cancer – my friend whom I wrote the post about a few years ago is now cancer free and getting married this October, which is incredible and beautiful, best of all I get to be a bridesmaid at her wedding in the US, and it’ll be the first time we’ve seen each other in person since she left the country to start chemo back home. I might cry a bit (I probably will). I’m writing about it again because it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I was even aware you could be a living stem cell donor. But you can. And it’s easy. And I really, really do wish that it was something I could do, even for a complete stranger. But you can.
So now I’m asking you: would you donate your organs/stem cells to a total stranger?
Until next time, peace and love,
PS: If you’re in the US, please check out The National Marrow Donor Program.
EDIT: Since writing this, John has now set up a JustGiving page for Anthony Nolan. His initial target of £1,000 was smashed in 45 mins, his second target of £5,000 in less than a day. He is now past £6000, aiming for £10,000 to aid Anthony Nolan in its work. Check it out, read about it in John’s own words and if you’ve got a few spare quid knocking about, please do donate to Anthony Nolan for John.