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Bloodwise School Talk

Posted by
28 Jun 2017

An account of my visit to my children's school to tell them about Bloodwise and my role as a Bloodwise Ambassador as part of parents week.

I’ve just got back from talking to my children’s school classes about Bloodwise. It went really, really well and the children were very receptive. They asked some really intelligent and thoughtful questions. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


First of all I went to my eldest daughters class who are all 9 and 10 years old. I introduced myself and told them I was going to tell them about Bloodwise. In essence I showed them the first few slides with Bloodwise’s aims and visions. Then I told them about my experience, very briefly I told them I had a type of Blood Cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and that I had to spend a long time in hospital receiving chemotherapy and eventually having a stem cell transplant to get rid of it.  

I showed them the photo of me without any hair and that’s when I pulled out the wig. That was a big hit! Almost all the class wanted to try it on and I had a mirror to show them what they looked like. Quite a few boys tried it on too, and everyone single one of them had a bit of a supermodel swish!


Once all that excitement was over,  I started to tell them how I became a Bloodwise Ambassador.  I told them I had started blogging about what was happening and that’s when Bloodwise got in touch with me and asked if they could use the blogs to promote Bloodwise on social media. Then I told them about the launch event of the Ambassador programme at The Houses of Parliament and how I, and my fellow ambassadors, had spoken to MP's, doctors, researchers and drug companies about our experiences as blood cancer patients and carers.

I also told them about the fun stuff, and showed them the picture of me sitting in the Royal Box at The Albert Hall. Back in May their year group were lucky enough to perform in a musical concert at The Albert Hall, so that went down very well and they were very impressed that I got to sit in the Queen’s seat. Sitting beside me was my sister who had given me her stem cells to save my life. I told them when they are old enough they should register with Anthony Nolan’s stem cell register and perhaps one day they could save a life too. That was very well received. There is a huge mix of ethnic backgrounds in the school so I told them that the register particularly needed people from Africa, Asia and South America to register.

That photo also featured The Calendar Girls (who deserve capital letters because they are amazing!). I told them about the original calendar and how they had raised over £4 million so far for Bloodwise. Quite a few of them knew about them and had seen the film.  I told them about The Girls musical too. There were gasps when I said Gary Barlow had written the songs for it and they wanted to know if I had met him. Sadly I haven’t (yet!) but I did show them a photo with me at the opening night with Ore Aduba and also afterwards at the bucket collections with the cast members. They wanted to know what famous people I had met and I told them I had met:- Sue from Mel and Sue on Bake Off, Graham Norton and obviously Ore. A few gasps came there!

Then I pulled it back to talking about Bloodwise again and told them that Bloodwise were the official sponsor for The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 this year. They know all about it because it goes right through Wimbledon, practically past their school and a few of their parents have done it.

I asked if anyone had some questions and many hands shot up. I was asked when Bloodwise started and I was answered by telling them that it started in 1960 and back then that survival rates back then were very poor, but now thanks to research funded by Bloodwise that had jumped to 9/10 and we have a vision to make it 10/10 and stop people getting blood cancer all together.

I was asked whether Bloodwise helped other cancers or just blood cancers so I told them that Bloodwise specifically looked at the 137 differrent types of blood cancer, but that often treatment for different cancers can be used. I gave the example of my taking Sorafenib, a medicine which was originally developed to treat people with liver cancer, but that research funded by Bloodwise, had discovered that it could also be used to treat my specific type of blood cancer and that it was much less horrible than having chemotherapy. I also told them that stem cell transplants are being used to treat other illnesses like multiple sclerosis.

One girl asked me how my sister survived once I had taken her stem cells and so I explained that she was given a drug for a few days to get her to make more stem cells than she needed and then they were painlessly extracted from her blood to be given to me, and that she then continued to make new stem cells of her own.

There were many more questions and I can’t list them all here, but they were all very intelligent and thoughtful. I was really impressed by them.


Then I went off to my younger daughter’s class. They are all 6 and 7 so I cut out a little bit of the talk but it was more or less the same as the talk I gave to the older children with some of the specifics of the illness and its effects cut out. I did tell them that you couldn’t catch blood cancer and that it was very rare. I didn’t want any of them thinking they might catch it. I was also able to show them how I am now fit and well following my stem cell transplant. One of the children asked me how the stem cell transplant worked. By coincidence, another mum in their class is a genetic research scientist and she had gone in yesterday and shown them cells under a microscope, and DNA, so their class teacher jumped in and related it to what they had learnt about cells yesterday.

One little girl asked me what would have happened if I didn’t have a sister, so I was able to tell them about the stem cell register and told to get their parents and older siblings to register.


And the final question: “When you were at The Albert Hall, did you meet John because he’s my Uncle.”




I loved it!




Your talk sounds fab Jane and it must've been great to get such fantastic engagement from the class. I learned a lot just from reading your blog! Well done, a very inspiring read that made me smile xx

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