Dozens of celebrities have offered their support for a Jewish family who has just a month to find a bone marrow donor to save their mother’s life after her leukaemia returned.
Britney Spears tweeted “A British mum with leukemia needs a stem cell donor. RT, register, say a prayer, and save a life @GiftofLife @DKMS_uk #Spit4Mum”
Sharon’s daughter Caroline said: “We’ve been incredibly moved by the global support from celebrities on social media. Now I hope we can turn those tweets into sign-ups to help save my mum’s life from blood cancer. We are incredibly grateful that people in the public eye are putting the weight of their social media presence behind our #Spit4Mum campaign and using their celebrity status for the greater good.”
Her brother, Jonni, added: “We’ve had some amazing social media support which has taken our appeal to new audiences. It’s fantastic to see people getting behind our campaign so quickly. Retweets raise awareness but people have to take action, and that is the hard part.”
Sharon Berger, 65, of London was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in 2012, and was told that the only available cure was a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor.
A global search was launched – dubbed the #Spit4Mum campaign – and a matching donor was found within weeks which meant Sharon had an apparently successful transplant in May 2013.
But sadly, last week, a routine blood test revealed that, despite a successful transplant, the aggressive nature of her illness means the cancer has returned. Doctors have now told the family that Sharon has just six weeks before she needs a second transplant.
“It means that her body has not responded to the anonymous matching donor who seemed to have saved her life, and she now needs another transplant,” explains Jonni, who – together with his sister Caroline – spearheaded the 2013 #Spit4Mum campaign, which led to a 1,100 per cent increase in the number of British Jews registering as donors.
Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is now searching the world’s combined stem cell registries for someone whose tissue type matches Sharon’s. But the search could prove difficult because of Sharon’s combination of rare tissue types.
Because of Sharon’s Jewish heritage, her best match is likely to be an Ashkenazi Jew. But the family are encouraging everyone who is eligible to join the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow register, as a potential match.
A recent study found that of patients who receive a second transplant, one in three survived for at least another five years.
“This means that if we can find Mum another match in the next month, there is a good chance that she will have a second chance at life post-transplant,” says Jonni.
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register and Development at Anthony Nolan, said: "The amount of support that’s been shown for #Spit4Mum so far has been extremely heartening. Everyone who has read and shared the campaign has made a big difference. But there’s still more that can be done.
“We would urge anyone who hasn’t joined up yet to consider doing so – it’s straightforward and could help save the life of someone like Sharon.
“To join up you must be aged 16-30, in good health and weigh at least 50kg. We are particularly looking for people from Jewish and other ethnic minority backgrounds to join, as they are currently underrepresented on the donor register.”
People can sign up to register to find a match in the following ways :
To register as a stem cell donor in the U.S and save a life go to www.giftoflife.org.
For people worldwide who want to donate:
To register to donate stem cells please go to Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide, which is a global database of lifesaving stem cell donors.