Blood stem cell transplants are often the only hope to treat blood cancers and disorders in Mzansi. On this episode of Sisters Without Shame, Thabo Maleka, who lives with aplastic anaemia, and Unathi Mtengwana, a blood cancer fighter, detail their journeys searching for blood stem donation.
Maleka from Polokwane, and Mtengwana from Zeereust have spent more time in hospitals than outside of them, waiting for life-saving stem cell matches.
According to DKMS Africa, up to 70% of blood cancer and blood disorder sufferers require a blood stem cell donation from a non-related donor. However, a general lack of information and education are major barriers preventing eligible potential donors from registering on the global registry.
‘It is a waiting game’
Before his illness, Mtengwana (37) was an engineer working in KwaZulu-Natal. He was diagnosed with T-cell leukemia in 2017.
“I am still fighting this disease, even today. I don’t even know how to explain the experience, it has been devastating in many ways, financially impilo (life) has been bad. But God is great.
“Last December when I was doing my random check-ups, it was discovered that there is cancer it is now in a molecular level where it has spread to my spinal cord and brain,” he says.
‘Illness has taken my future’
Maleka (35) has been living with aplastic anaemia since 2012. “I go for blood transfusions on a monthly basis. I am just waiting on a blood stem cell donor. My sickness does not produce enough red blood cells for oxygen. If there is no oxygen going to the tissue cells, the bone marrow is dead.”
Misinformation on blood stem cell donation can be life-threatening for others waiting for stem cell donation he says.
“They [people] don’t know what’s happening around cancer as a whole. They think cancer ke lefu (death sentence),” he laments.
On this episode Mtengwana and Maleka also detail:
- The harsh realities of living with potentially deadly chronic disease.
- Their hopes and dreams once they catch their lucky break on the donor list.
Listen to the full interview on Sisters Without Shame
Apple Podcasts: Click here to listen on any Apple device.
Google Podcasts: Click here to listen on Google Podcast.
Want to connect with Sisters Without shame?
To send an SOS to Sisters Without Shame, email hello@healthformzansi. Alternatively, send a WhatsApp to 076 132 0454.