Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is celebrating Pride season with its largest ever presence at UK Pride events, including marching in the Pride in London Parade on Saturday (8 Jul). Recent YouGov research the charity commissioned revealed that 50% of gay and bi men incorrectly believe that they are not allowed to join the stem cell register. Read gay stem cell donor Jon Evans’ case study below and get ready to sign up!
Hello, I’m Jon, 27, I live in Cardiff and I’m a project manager for a construction management consultancy. In my free time, I like to play football and I like to run – I also like eating crisps.
I joined the Anthony Nolan register about three years ago after talking to a friend of mine who works for Anthony Nolan. We were talking about blood donation and how I’m not able to donate because I’m gay. She explained to me that gay men are able to sign up to the stem cell register, and that your sexuality doesn’t matter at all.
I was actually quite surprised at first to hear that gay men were able to sign up, but my friend explained about testing and how unique being a match for someone is – it’s not that you’re just randomly donating to anyone, it’s more that you’re specifically matched with an individual who desperately needs your stem cells.
She also explained about the different ways of donating, and that normally it’s procedure in which the stem cells are taken straight from your bloodstream. I had heard about bone marrow donation before, and that it might be painful, but I hadn’t realised how much the procedure had changed.
Last October or November, I received a call to say that I had a very common DNA type and I was asked whether I’d be prepared to be part of the ‘Phenotype Project’. This basically meant that they take a sample of blood so that they have more information about your DNA, and that it would make the process quicker if I was ever matched with someone.
In February the following year, I was called to say that I was a potential match for someone. I remember the day I was told I was a match because it was Valentine’s Day!
When I originally signed up, I didn’t think about it very much. After I joined the Phenotype Project, it became more of a reality. My friend Kirsty showed me a video of a donor and a recipient that met up, and ran the marathon together – I saw that and I knew it was something I wanted to go through with.
Initially, when I spoke to people about donating, a lot of people were concerned about it being really painful. After explaining a bit more about Anthony Nolan and the process, people were really supportive and pleased for me. A lot of people asked a lot of questions about Anthony Nolan, and I know that since I’ve donated a few friends of mine have joined the register too.
The whole donation process was so simple. I travelled down the day before and stayed in a hotel. The donation itself was literally just sitting in a bed for five hours watching TV. I knew before that it was going to be easy and pain free, but it genuinely really is like that. I felt like everything was explained to me so well beforehand that I knew exactly what to expect.
The fact that Anthony Nolan organised and paid for the transport and accommodation was really amazing. That I was also able to have my boyfriend Olly come with me to London too and watch TV with me while I donated made it a lot easier. When I found out that Olly would be there with me, I instantly felt a lot less nervous about the whole thing.
After the donation I felt really tired, and I’d say for a few days afterwards I experienced what felt a bit like jet-lag. But it wasn’t bad at all, and I would say to someone thinking of joining the register that they should 100% do it. Anthony Nolan needs as many people as possible to sign up. When you’re a match with someone, you’re not just saving someone’s life – it feels really good too. It genuinely ticked off 2017 for me – I knew that would be my ultimate achievement for the year. Even if the person I donated to doesn’t make it, you know that you’ve given them the best possible chance at life, and that is an amazing feeling.
The whole process from Anthony Nolan was so slick. It’s such a great thing to do and it’s also so interesting – I would recommend it to anyone!