Everyone at our Worcester store is urging people to register to become potential stem cell donors to save the life of their much-loved colleague Sheldon Donovan who is fighting a rare blood cancer.
Sheldon, who's 28, has begun a desperate search for a donor after his cancer returned for a third time and all other treatment failed to treat his Hodgkin lymphoma.
Worcester store manager Rukia Hussain says everyone at the store is supporting fresh manager Sheldon and many, including herself, have already registered with the charity DKMS to see if any of them could be a suitable donor match for their friend.
She said: "Our community colleague Linda has done a big display in store for colleagues asking them to sign up. Colleagues are registering and getting involved and they all really want to help him out.
"Everyone wants to help and I've got a great team here of colleagues and leadership who back Sheldon. A lot of them have known Sheldon a lot longer than I have and have worked alongside him and they've got that deep personal relationship with him.
"As a person he is so loved by everyone in the store. He's got a really loud bubbly personality and he's always been just the life of the party. He's always got involved in things and and got everyone else involved too. He is a really big character, a pillar in the store.
"Twenty-eight is no age at all to through all this, so we're all all hoping he will get a match soon."
Sheldon has worked at Asda for 12 years – six of them at Cardiff where he started out a part-time George warehouse colleague while he was at college.
He said: "To my colleagues who have already registered I'd like to say a massive thank you as they could potentially be saving my life.
"There's just nothing else like working at Asda – you are just part of this big family. I've never seen this anywhere else. The Asda family is second to none really.
"I'm quite taken a back by all the support. It's nice to hear that so many people think so much of me. It is a nice feeling that people do care for you. We just need that one person to match and make a difference.
"Firstly you've got to make sure that you are eligible, then you get sent a swab kit through the post and then you just post it back.
Sheldon, who moved to Worcester five years ago to be with his partner Liam, is currently on sick leave.
He said: “I know that my medical team has done everything they could have done for me. All treatment has been unsuccessful and I’ve relapsed twice, so I really am down to my last chance now. It’s simple, I want a second chance of life which means relying on the help of a stranger.
"I’ve teamed up with DKMS so they can help me find that person. I have so much more living to do and dreams to fulfil. I adore my partner Liam and our recent addition to our household – our Labradoodle, Charlie. Please give me a chance – I’m only 28, and not ready to die just yet.”
“In 2016 I remember visiting the doctor because I wasn’t feeling very well. I’m not usually one to go to the doctor, but I knew I couldn’t delay it any longer as my body just didn’t feel right. I went to the GP and shortly after, (October 2016) I was admitted into hospital.
"My results came back in early December and I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. It suddenly dawned on me that I had cancer. They are very surreal words to hear especially when they are directed at you! All I knew was that I was going to fight it with all my might. Firstly, I checked to see if my brother was a match, but sadly he wasn’t.
“I spoke to my local hospital about referring me to University Hospital of Wales, because it was based in Cardiff, which i where my parents live and meant they could to care for me. Thankfully, my local hospital agreed and I underwent six months of chemotherapy. I was only 24 at the time at the time of my diagnosis and I have to say I did at times feel a little sorry for myself. I was treated in the hospital’s teenage cancer unit, who arranged for me to meet Ed Sheeran in 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall.
“Eventually, I went into remission in June of 2017 – it was a fantastic feeling! When you go into remission, you daren’t forget to appreciate the small things in life. I was so happy to get back to spending time with my partner. I even went so far as to start thinking again about pursuing my hobby as a TV and film extra.”
"Unfortunately, my period of remission only lasted for 18 months – I relapsed in January 2019. I was treated with more chemotherapy and then had an autologous stem cell operation several months later in August. This is where my own stem cells were used to replace my damaged ones. Sadly, it wasn’t to last, because a year after my first relapse the cancer returned for a second time in January 2020.”
Sheldon says registering as a blood stem cell donor is easy – you simply check your eligibility and request your home swab kit.
Once you receive the kit, you will need to swab the inside of your cheek, following the instructions on the pack, before sending them back. Once the charity receives the swabs, they are processed in our lab to determine you tissue typing. Your typing is then stored, in an anonymised form, on the global database. This means you can be identified as a match for anyone in the world.
To register with DKMS visit https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/sheldon