A Hailsham dad-of-two who was diagnosed with a rare cancer is campaigning for more people to become bone marrow donors after a transplant saved his life.
Andrew Ward, 49, from Woodlands Close, was diagnosed with Peripheral T-cell lymphoma, a non-Hodgkins blood cancer, in October 2012.
He was put on a gruelling course of chemotherapy but when that failed, was told he would need a bone marrow transplant.
Andrew said: “To actually have saved me was an achievement really. Basically I found a lump in my neck and after that found out the cause of it. I had a course of chemotherapy which was fairly straight forward but it made no difference to it. I had to have the bone marrow transplant and if that didn’t work there was nothing else they could do.”
Thanks to charity, the Anthony Nolan Trust, which has a register of donors and helps find matches for bone marrow transplants, Andrew was found a donor, and 13 months later is in recovery.
He said: “I was admitted to King’s College Hospital and then had to have even more aggressive chemotherapy which was a hideous ordeal. But here I am, this time last year, I was being pushed around in a wheelchair, I couldn’t manage to walk, it shows how far I have come. I just really want to say that we need more donors. We really need young men aged between 16 and 30 to become donors as they are most likely to be a match. Me and my donor are writing to each other, we don’t know each other’s names as it is confidential, but we do keep in touch.”
To thank the Anthony Nolan Trust for its support Andrew rode his motorbike from Hailsham to Land’s End in Cornwall. And with his 11-year-old son James on the back and his wife Claire and six-year-old son Benjamin in a support car, made the 881 mile journey to John O’Groats in Scotland to raise funds for the charity and raise awareness of the need for donors.
Andrew said: “I really enjoyed it but it was tough. I am still in recovery and so it was very tiring. I had a tremendous amount of support and it really helped to have my family on the trip and to give something back to Anthony Nolan who have done so much for us. I think the best bit of the trip was just being alive really. We got into the Highlands in Scotland, and there were breath taking views and I stopped and text my sister and said, ‘these are views to live for.’ So often people say ‘it’s something to die for’ but really it’s being alive and being here to see it.”
Andrew’s entire immune system has been replaced following the transplant. It means he had all of his childhood vaccinations again and even stopped on the way in Cumbria for a jab.
He said: “I have had so much support. I did a cancer rehabilitation course at the local gym and it really helped me to go beyond it and encouraged me to do it.”
Andrew said he wanted to thank staff at Pevensey Ward and Day Unit at the DGH Eastbourne, staff at King’s College Hospital, his two sisters - Caroline for all her help and Maggie for putting the family up in Kendal and organising a fundraising barbeque. Andrew is planning other fundraisers and said he plans to make the trip again next year. He has raised £1,500 so far. Donate at: www.justgiving.com/andrew-ward16. For the bone marrow register visit http://www.anthonynolan.org/