When Belmont’s Pamela Bou Sejean was looking for a lifesaving stem cell match she knew it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
A match is more likely in someone who shares the same ethnic background — but only 0.6 per cent of all the donors on Australian Bone Marrow Donor Register have a Middle Eastern background like Ms Bou Sejean.
While her remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma came from a cord blood match, Ms Bou Sejean had seen the void and knew it had to be filled.
The Facebook page which took her plea for life around the world in 2012 has been turned into Ur the Cure, an organisation raising awareness of the need for those from ethnic backgrounds to join the registry.
She’s run blood drives at church and community groups, spoke at last month’s Survivorship Conference in Adelaide and will present at Saturday’s Scott No Cancer fundraiser for Geelong West’s Scott Beyer who has a rare Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“The reaction I get from most people, is why hasn’t this been done already,” Ms Bou Sejean said. “But I’m doing it now.”
Ur the Cure will publicise those seeking a match, lobby government and health organisations to make the register more prominent and dispel myths associated with donating bone marrow — now a near-painless procedure.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate, children, adults, whatever religion or background it can get anyone,” Ms Bou Sejean said.
“One woman who contacted me through the page needed a match 15 years ago from an Asian background and she couldn’t believe nothing had changed.”
The organisation’s website shows how other countries promote their Bone Marrow Registries through emotional footage of people meeting the donors who saved their lives — something Ms Bou Sejean hopes to one day do too.
“It could be as simple as a tick box to join when you give blood or a broad campaign like organ donation or combining with programs that already exist like the Red Cross youth ambassador programs or school education talks,” she said.
“There’s massive room for improvement. It’s curing and saving people’s lives.”
Ms Bou Sejean will also travel to Lebanon later this year to reignite plans for the country’s first Bone Marrow Register, which will link in with the worldwide register.
Those aged 18-45 can join the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry by phoning the Red Cross Blood Service on 13 14 95 and making an appointment to donate blood and join the registry.
Republished with permission Gelong Advertiser, March 27 2015