A WEST Belfast mother who survived after finding a rare stem cell donor is urging people to register as blood stem cell donors.

Sharon McCloskey (44) from Lagmore originally went to her GP last year after feeling tired and run down. The mum-of-three was shocked at her devastating leukaemia diagnosis. The cancer was so aggressive she had to start chemotherapy immediately.

Thankfully, after her friends and family helped to appeal for people to register with DKMS, a blood cancer charity Sharon’s match was found.

Earlier this year, Sharon said she was cancer-free and in full remission.

Speaking on Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Sharon said:  “My leaukemia diagnosis was the most devastating news I’ve ever been dealt.

“I had two markers in my blood, which meant that the chances of the leukaemia coming back unless I had a stem cell transplant were incredibly high.

“Sadly, neither of my brothers were a match so we turned to DKMS to try and find a stranger who was.

“When I received the call to say my match had been found I just wanted to squeeze that stranger so tight and say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you!’

“They’ve given the kids more time with their mum and me more time to see them grow.

“Please, if you can, register with DKMS and give other people like me a second chance at life.”

NOW AND THEN: Sharon McCloskey today; right, during her treatment last year

NOW AND THEN: Sharon McCloskey today; right, during her treatment last year

Jonathan Pearce, Chief Executive of DKMS UK, said: “Knowing that the reason a lot of people haven’t registered as a blood stem cell donor is due to misunderstanding is in some way positive. It means this Blood Cancer Awareness Month we have an opportunity to drive life-saving action by simply shouting about how straight forward, yet vital the blood stem cell donation process is.

“At DKMS, we are dedicated to the fight against blood cancer. In the UK we are proud to have registered over 650,000 blood stem cell donors and helped to give over 1,000 people a second chance at life. Yet, the number of donors sadly comes nowhere near to meeting the demand from people desperately seeking a vital donation from a complete stranger.

“The potential imminent spike in blood cancer diagnoses will mean even more will need to rely on the kindness of a stranger to give them extra time with their loved ones.”

Taking the first steps to register as a potential blood stem cell donor can be done within a few minutes from the comfort of your own home. If you are aged between 17-55 and in general good health you can sign up for a home swab kit online at dkms.org.uk/bcam2020. Your swabs can then be returned with the enclosed pre-paid envelope to DKMS in order to ensure that your details are added to the UK’s aligned stem cell registry.

Sign-up and join Team DKMS by visiting www.20for20.org.uk.