You know the call – after the initial adrenaline rush (and OK, maybe the Results Night hangover alongside it…) wore off after you found out the blood, sweat, tears, caffeine and regrettable night outs you poured into your A-Levels were enough to get you into uni, you probably started planning which societies you’d be joining. Then uni actually came along, life happened, and somehow here you are, in February, well and truly in the second term of the year and still none the wiser on the societies to get round to signing up to.

Well, that’s where Cardiff Marrow steps in. As the first word of our name implies, we’re based here in Cardiff, but you may well be pondering what Marrow actually is. And if you’re thinking about joining, that’s a pretty reasonable ponder.

Cardiff Marrow is our branch of the Marrow, while Marrow is the student society of Anthony Nolan. Anthony Nolan, meanwhile, is one of the UK’s main blood cancer charities, and in fact the biggest register of stem cell donors.

Blood cancer isn’t as well-known as other forms such as breast or lung, but this shouldn’t be the case, as it’s actually diagnosed once every 20 minutes in this country. That equates to 25,000 people a year, and since blood cancer covers leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and MDS, that means a lot of patients, including a proportion of children and young adults, rely on stem-cell transplants as their last chance of survival.

And that’s where Anthony Nolan help. Although many blood cancers are treated with the better-known chemotherapy and steroids, stem-cell transplants are essential for 2,000 people in the UK per year. This is where a healthy donor donates stem cells from the blood, and if all goes well, these will replace the patient’s cancerous cells and serve as a cure.

However, because stem-cell matches must be so precise, family members like siblings aren’t always eligible. This is why the work of Anthony Nolan and Marrow is so crucial – the more people they get on to the register, the more chance there is of a patient finding a suitable donor.

There are plenty of myths about the process, which Marrow is keen to clear up. To join the register, which we’ll do for you at our regular recruitment drives, simply spit into a tube and fill out a form explaining the basic criteria needed, such as being aged 16-30, weighing above 8 stone, and being generally healthy. That’s all it takes to be on your way to potentially save a life!

There’s only a 1 in 1000 chance you’ll ever be asked to donate – but if you are, there’s no huge operation involved, as many people wrongly presume. 90% of donations are via Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation, which looks similar to kidney dialysis, or giving blood, though it takes a few more hours. You’ll probably have to stay in a hospital for a night, will be looked after by Anthony Nolan in London, and the most side effects are likened to mild flu symptoms for a few days. Many donors have spoken about how it was so easy yet rewarding, and how they’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Then, your stem cells will go off to their set recipient – who’ll ideally end up cancer-free, all thanks to your simple donation.

Cardiff Marrow also hosts various fundraising events, often collaborating with other organisations around the city; teaming up with the wider community – Marrow is found in over 50 UK unis; debunking myths and spreading the word about blood cancer and transplants in general. I began volunteering from Freshers Fayre in 2014, and like everyone else in the team, have stayed in the committee, as Media Coordinator, because I love being involved so much. You don’t need to dedicate a set amount of time, but together we’re making a real difference, as statistics show - Marrow have signed up 30% of all of Anthony Nolan’s stem cell donations, and incredibly over 100,000 to the register.

I’m a blood cancer survivor myself, having been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, one of the most common types in teenagers (symptoms include breathlessness, tiredness and night sweats) aged 15, so after undergoing treatment myself, I know how important it is to give back to those in desperate need of a transplant. Marrow lets me do just this, so if you’re interested in joining as a volunteer, or getting yourself onto the lifesaving register, take a visit to cardiff@ukmarrow.org, twitter.com/cardiffmarrow , facebook.com/marrowcardiff or www.anthonynolan.com .

Do you have an experience or story that could inspire students? Let us know at joinus@myunibasics.co.uk

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Written by Ellie Philpotts, 10 months ago

Image credit: twitter.com/cardiffmarrow