The friends and colleagues of a “much loved” RAF Avionics Technician, who was diagnosed with blood cancer last November, are appealing for more people to join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register, after being told his best chance of survival was through a stem cell transplant.
‘Genuinely nice lad’ Dylan Smith, 24, had begun renovating his first home when he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), a type of blood cancer, on 2 November 2019.
Prior to his diagnosis, he was excelling at work with 8 Squadron at RAF Waddington and enjoyed football, fishing, golf and entertaining his friends with his dry sense of humour.
‘He is a really loved member of the squadron’ says best friend Aidan Harvey, 25, who worked with Dylan for three years.
‘Dylan and I lived a couple of doors down, and before his diagnosis, he would finish work and fall straight asleep. He was losing weight and when he had a few days off, he decided to visit a doctor.’
Dylan recalls: ‘I was sleeping all the time and my stomach swelled up. It was actually my spleen but obviously, I didn’t know that until I was diagnosed.’
Aidan was out with friends in his hometown of Stoke when he received a call from Dylan. He says: ‘I was in the pub when Dylan called to say he had some crap news. I just broke down in front of my mates.’
Dylan was initially put on a course of chemotherapy tablets to bring down his white blood cell count, but it was, unfortunately, ineffective.
Dylan says: ‘My body wasn’t responding to medication and the leukaemia was still really high. My medical team said the next step is a stem cell transplant and we’re now getting everything in place so that can happen.’
The strength of feeling amongst squadron to help Dylan in any way they could was so strong that they pulled together and raised £2,500 to help him finish his kitchen renovations.
‘He’s a proper legitimate character, and that shows by the amount of money raised’ says Aidan.
‘Dylan’s still greatly missed on the squadron’.
Although Aidan wasn’t aware of stem cell transplants before Dylan’s diagnosis, Dylan himself had signed up to the Anthony Nolan register, after attending a talk in school.
His medical team are now searching that very register to find a matching unrelated donor for Dylan and putting preparations in place.
When asked what he’d say to encourage someone to join the register and save a life like Dylan’s, Aidan is decisive: ‘It takes ten minutes. Those ten minutes can give someone else ten years. You can easily save a life. It’s a no-brainer really.’
Dylan adds: ‘Every person should be part of the register. I was part of the register before my diagnosis, I signed up when I was seventeen. You could sign up and you could save someone else’s life.’
Alice Hirst, National Recruitment Manager at Anthony Nolan, says: ‘By all accounts, Dylan was a big personality, the life and soul of the squadron. He just bought his first house and had a bright future ahead of him when he was given news nobody would want to hear.’
‘Instead of enjoying everything life has to offer you at the age of 24, Dylan has joined the five people a day, who start their search for an unrelated stem cell donor. Every single person who signs up to the register has the potential to give hope to someone like Dylan in need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant. We’re especially keen for young men to consider signing up; they account for over 50% of those chosen to donate but makeup just 18% of the Anthony Nolan register. We really need young men to visit our website, find out more and help us address this imbalance.
‘Together, we can work towards a future where nobody is waiting for their match.’
Anthony Nolan recruits people aged 16-30 to the stem cell register as research has shown younger people are more likely to be chosen to donate.
They also carry out ground-breaking research to save more lives and provide information and support to patients after a stem cell transplant, through its clinical nurse specialists and psychologists, who help guide patients through their recovery.
It costs £40 to recruit each potential donor to the register, so Anthony Nolan relies on financial support.
Find out more at www.anthonynolan.org/DonorForDylan