Make a mark: May 28 is World Blood Cancer Day
Cape Town, 25 May 2023: Blood cancers like non-Hodgkins and Hodgkins lymphomas, as well as leukaemia are the most common cancers amongst South African teenagers, many of whom have to spend long periods of their lives confined to hospitals and away from their families and friends. To commemorate World Blood Cancer Day (WBCD), which takes place annually on the 28th of May, and to highlight the prevalence of blood cancer amongst South African youth, DKMS Africa will be handing over a refurbished room called the Hope Hub for adolescents undergoing cancer treatment at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH).
“This special area will be a space where these young people can have fun, catch up on homework, and just be teenagers. It will hopefully be a place where they can feel ‘at home’,” says Palesa Mokomele, Head of Community Engagement and Communications at DKMS Africa.
She explains that being diagnosed with cancer can have serious negative effects on adolescents, especially when it comes to their social and emotional well-being. This is compounded by being at a unique stage in their lives that is accompanied by its own stresses. Additionally, as this group is often under-represented in the National Cancer Registry and the South African Children’s Cancer Registry, their needs are lost in both media and society.”
Mokomele adds that for patients suffering from blood cancer, their best hope at a second chance of life is often a blood stem cell transplant. “DKMS actively works to find matching blood stem cell donors for these patients, which is ultimately the aim of WBCD. It is for this reason that all DKMS entities around the world have elected to use the 28th of May – which also happens to be the day on which DKMS was founded back in 1991 - to encourage people to register as stem cell donors and give patients hope. This is especially crucial since someone somewhere in the world is diagnosed with blood cancer every 27 seconds, while in South Africa the statistics indicate a diagnosis every 72 minutes.”
Speaking about her experience with cancer, 11-year-old Tsakane from Gauteng shares; “When I found out I had blood cancer I was scared.” She is one of hundreds of South African children suffering from blood cancer and is currently looking for a blood stem cell donor to save her life.
To support patients like Tsakane and those at IALCH, Mokomele encourages those between the ages of 17 – 55 who are in general good health to register to become blood stem cell donors at https://www.dkms-africa.org/register-now. For more information, contact DKMS Africa on 0800 12 10 82.