Just days after celebrating three years in remission and her 65th birthday, Sharon Berger from London received the devastating news that her Leukemia had returned. Now, Sharon has only six weeks to find a stem cell donor and is appealing to the global Jewish community for help.
Sharon, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy in a London hospital, is most likely to find a match of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, like her.
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This isn’t the first time Sharon has to undergo a bone marrow transplant. She 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.
This led her children Jonni and Caroline to kick off a campaign urging potential donors around the world to join the bone marrow donor registry, with thousands answering their call to “#spit4mum.”
Succeeding in rallying the Jewish communities worldwide, the campaign led to a 1, 100 percent increase in British Jewish recruits. The match, however, was found far from home—in Israel.
Now, Sharon, her husband Stephen and their two children are gearing up for another fight. They launched a new campaign, reaching out to traditional media, social media, synagogues, Jewish organizations and youth movements.
“Her body has not responded to the anonymous matching donor which seemed to have saved her life, and now she needs another transplant, ” said son Jonni.
A recent study found that one in three patients who received a second transplant survived for at least five more years.
“This means that if we can find Mom another match in the next six weeks, there is a good chance that she will have a second chance at life post-transplant, ” Jonni said.
Jonni said his mother was “shocked, of course, and worried, because she’s fully aware of the situation and knows how painful the side effects can be, but she’s resilient and determined. She’s prepared for the challenge. Let’s hope the community can rise to the challenge too.”
A British-based blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan has been combing the world’s combined stem cell registries for someone whose tissue type matches Sharon’s, but the search is proving difficult because of her combination of rare tissue types.
The UK-based charity said in a statement, “To join our register, 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.”
Residents of the UK can join the register via the Anthony Nolan charity by clicking here . Residents of Israel can join the register via Ezer Mizion by clicking here for Hebrew and here for English . Others can help by seeking out the bone marrow register in their own country and joining it.