The family of a 35-year-old man, who is battling cancer for the second time, helped to host a stem cell donor drive at a Surrey gurdwara Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 23 and 24). (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Family hosts stem cell donor drive at Surrey gurdwara for relative’s second time battling cancer

Focus of the drive is to increase number of South Asian donors

In an effort to raise awareness for the need of South Asian stem cell donors and to help a 35-year-old man battling cancer, one family hosted a stem cell donor drive at a local gurdwara over the weekend.

The family of a 35-year-old man, whose identity the family has chosen to keep private as he undergoes “intensive chemotherapy,” along with Canadian Blood Services and One Blood for Life Foundation hosted the donor drive at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara (7050 120th St.) Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 23 and 24).

Prabhroop Kaur Sidhu, a relative of the man, said it is his second time battling cancer, specifically T-cell lymphoma. She said he was first diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma about two-and-a-half years ago, and he was cancer-free for about two years.

However, Sidhu said, he was diagnosed once again with the cancer in December.

The reason for the stem cell drive, according to a news release for the event, was to get a perfect match for him by the end of February “for the best chance of his transplant being successful.”

Sidhu said the South Asian community regularly does stem cell drives at temples and schools “to increase South Asian registrants,” but she added that if people weren’t able to make it to the gurdwara over the weekend, they can go to Canadian Blood Services in Surrey, located at 15285 101 Ave.

People could go to the gurdwara over the weekend for more info, to register and do the cheek swab for it to be sent to Ottawa to be processed. In total, registering and doing the cheek swab takes less than five minutes

Along with hopefully finding a match for Sidhu’s relative, she said, the donor drive is meant to also increase registration and awareness of stem cell donors in the South Asian community.

“It increases his chances of getting a match, as well the 47 South Asian patients across Canada currently who are waiting for a match,” Sidhu said.

“Pretty much any ethnic group, or ethnic minority or if there’s mixed heritage, it’s more difficult to find matches.”

According to the news release, Canada Blood Services says 47 South Asian people are “actively searching for a stem cell match at this moment,” and only six per cent of Canada’s OneMatch registry “is made of individuals of South Asian descent.”

Sidhu said people have a higher chance of matching a stem cell donation if it’s from someone from your own ethnic group.

“It’s pretty much like winning the lottery if you do match to someone,” she said.

A stem cell tranplant, according to Canadian Blood Services, “replaces the patient’s unhealthy stem cells with the donor’s healthy stem cells.” Registered adult stem cell donors may be asked to donate either peripheral blood or bone marrow stem cells “depending on the physician’s choice of therapy for the patient.”

According to the release, OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is responsible for finding and matching volunteer donors to patients who require stem cell transplants.

“Fewer than 25 percent of patients who need stem cell transplants find a compatible donor in their own family,” reads the release.

Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch program belong to an international network of registries, it is about to search more than 23 million donors in more than 70 registries in other countries.

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