From Cheek Swab to Lifesaver List

I am a big fan of desk browsing! By this, I mean checking out my latest granola purchase or the chocolate rice cake stash on the Chief Exec’s desk. However, this time around I stumbled across a pack of two swabs sitting on a folded document titled ‘TOGETHER AGAINST BLOOD CANCER’. Curious as ever, within moments of googling DKMS, I came to learn how a five-minute cheek swab would put me on standby to save a life.

With someone in the UK diagnosed with a blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma every 20 minutes and only around 30% of people with blood cancer finding a matching donor within their family, I never realised how hard it is to find someone with a matching tissue type. Then reality struck. The take home message was: the more people who register as a potential donor, the better the chance that blood cancer patients will find a match. There was no reason for me not to get involved!

Best of all, the whole process was SIMPLE. Only two steps are involved in becoming a potential blood stem cell donor:

1. Checking eligibility by answering 5 simple questions followed by a swab kit request (https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/register-now)

2. Completing the swabs (as per the instructions provided) and sending them back

The kit contains three swabs. I began by rinsing my mouth with water to remove any food/deposits. Next, it was a case of rub and rotate the first swab on the inside of one cheek for 60 seconds, repeat with the second swab on the inside of the other cheek, and then return to the first cheek with the third swab. I allowed two minutes for the swabs to dry before placing them in the swab envelope provided, and sending this back to the office in the pre-paid envelope. My job was DONE!

In terms of next steps, once the swabs are received, DKMS analyses the tissue type and adds your anonymised details to the UK stem cell registry. Your details will then be part of blood stem cell donor searches for people all over the world who need a genetic match for a second chance at life.

At this point, you may have a ton of questions, so please visit https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/frequently-asked-questions. This page covers areas such as how suitable donors are found, the blood stem cell collection process, and other elements of DKMS.

The odds are, you may never be called upon, but if you are, you will have the opportunity to give someone else a second chance at life. Claire and I have signed up – will you join us?