Tag Archives: cancer

Up close and personal with two of our transplant patients, Bryan (Centre) and Brendon

Reflecting on our 20 year mission

Up close and personal with two of our transplant patients, Bryan (Centre) and Brendon
Up close and personal with two of our transplant patients, Bryan (Centre) and Brendon

Many bone marrow donor registers around the world were established as the result of tragedy and likewise the BMDP which was set up after a Singaporean family lost a beloved son to leukaemia.

No matching bone marrow donor could be found for this one small boy and together with a group of doctors, the family made a commitment that no Singaporean should die without having at least the chance of a cure through a bone marrow transplant. That remains fundamental to our mission today.

A transplant offers a cure for many blood-related diseases including leukaemia, still the most common cancer and too many of us know people whose lives have been devastated by it. Yet we still cling to the belief that bad things happen to others so by the time we get the wake-up call, it’s too late to act.

We have shared a story of another Singaporean family whose lives were impacted twice as father and then the youngest son were diagnosed with a blood disease. They tell of a stark reality that we lose control and instead have to depend upon the generosity of strangers – unique individuals who did chose to act, signing up to donate blood and also life-saving bone marrow should they be a match for someone in the future.

In celebration of our 20 years, the BMDP has committed to recruit 20,000 donors onto the register in the next three years – but we cannot do it alone. Help us achieve this by spreading the word, ask your friends to sign up and please make a financial donation to help us pay for tissue typing our new donors. Both actions are just one click away.

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1 millionth blood stem cell transplant marks major medical milestone

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Through a global collaboration between transplant centres, bone marrow donor registers, researchers and physicians, the 1 millionth blood stem cell transplant was completed in late December 2012. For many patients battling critical blood diseases which include the most common forms of cancer, leukaemia and lymphoma, a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant is now a proven and essential therapy.

The global statistics were gathered through the Worldwide Network for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (WMBT) and today, more than 70 malignant and non-malignant diseases are treated routinely with blood stem cell transplantation, providing new cures for patients around the globe. The procedure technique itself has improved considerably and for patients with optimal conditions, disease-free survival rates are now reaching more than 90 percent.

“Worldwide, more than 50,000 patients a year are receiving transplants, in regions ranging from the Asia-Pacific to the Mid-East to Central America,” said Dennis Confer, M.D., treasurer of the WBMT and chief medical officer of the U.S.-based National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP). “The curative potential of this therapy will only increase, thanks to the commitment and collaboration of researchers and physicians across the globe.”

In Singapore, the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) operates the only donor register and provides a vital service to the local hospitals to identify a matching donor for their patients. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the BMDP has over 55,000 fully tissue typed donors registered on the local database and has facilitated transplants for close to 500 patients being treated in Singapore.

According to Jane Prior, President of the BMDP, “in Singapore, 6 people are diagnosed every day with a potentially fatal blood disease and a Bone Marrow or Blood Stem Cell transplant can offer a possible cure but they must first have a matching and willing donor. The first option is a sibling match but failing that, doctors turn to the BMDP and our promise is to find a matching donor for every patient who needs a transplant”.

The BMDP is a Singapore registered charity responsible for building and managing Singapore’s only register of volunteer donors who are willing to donate their bone marrow to save the lives of patients who need a transplant to survive. The BMDP also provides a 365-day service to the hospitals to search the local and global donor registers to find a matching donor for their patients.

A reunion of old mates - BMDP President, Jane Prior meets up with Ho Cheng Huat, Honorary Secretary of CCF as May Goh looks on

Bad-Hair Days and Big Boots

A reunion of old mates - BMDP President, Jane Prior meets up with Ho Cheng Huat, Honorary Secretary of CCF as May Goh looks on
A reunion of old mates – BMDP President, Jane Prior meets up with Ho Cheng Huat, Honorary Secretary of CCF as May Goh looks on

People ask me all the time about my involvement with the BMDP – and I explain that my son had a transplant after being diagnosed with one of the more difficult types of leukaemia. Where the diagnosis offered only one choice; to have a transplant.

We were lucky to find a matching donor in Australia and a decade and a half later, Daniel has a degree, a  job and things are good. For me, life these days is all about building for the future – adding names to the BMDP donor register, chasing up potential matches for our patients and making sure we have the funding to grow.

So, it was a lightning bolt at the weekend’s “Hair for Hope” when a voice spoke out of the blue, “Jane, great to see you… but I guess you don’t remember me?”

I didn’t immediately recognise him – it was a long time ago when I had a child with cancer and  a distinctly younger CCF volunteer – and now their Honorary Secretary, Ho Cheng Huat – was one of Daniel’s “minders” at Camp Rainbow. Reflecting back since the weekend’s chance meeting, I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to remember those days;  dashing between hospital, home and office; juggling three children and working with Daniel as he stoically faced up to the innumerable tests and procedures. We rationalized it as our own personal NS – bad-hair or no-hair days, boots on, don’t ask and just do it!

I learned a great deal from those months. Daniel gave back to me all the courage that I ever tried to give to him; the generosity of friends from nowhere and everywhere who helped in small unobtrusive ways, who sent us hats and the others who beat a drum for us.. Most of all, it was about tenacity – being brave enough to never doubt that this was anything more than a tunnel – with light and friendship along the way and surprisingly a lot of laughter amid the anguish – but definitely a tunnel with an end in sight.

So I guess this is my small salute to all of today’s parents of children with cancer – doing their own NS routine. You must know there are so many people out here all shouting out for you and your amazing children – we’ve got 50,000 of them all signed up to give their bone marrow if it’s needed – and after this weekend, there are a lot of shaved heads all giving and growing their support.

Daniel Prior was NUH’s  first paediatric Bone Marrow Transplant in 1996