Long Melford cancer survivor launches new music project to raise awareness for Anthony Nolan stem cell register
A Long Melford musician, who received a lifesaving stem cell transplant to treat his cancer, has launched a new music project, to urge people to join a national donor register.
Toby Leeming, 37, kicked off the project, Future Present, with the release of the band’s debut single, called A Near Run Thing, on Friday, inspired by Toby’s experience of overcoming blood cancer.
He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia after falling ill while touring the United States with his band, Duologue, five years ago.
Following months in isolation, undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he was matched with a stranger from the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor list, and underwent a successful transplant.
Toby, of St Catherine’s Road, told the Free Press he continued to create music during this time as “a kind of catharsis” to help deal with the treatment process, and he wrote and recorded an album, titled Radio Therapy, during his recovery.
“It was tough. To treat you, they make you very sick to make you well again,” he said.
“I was in isolation for most of it. I found that there was a goal there. You are really driven to be okay, then you get to the transplant and, with the nervous anticipation of it, you just wait and cross your fingers.
“Music was a cathartic way of processing things, dealing with what had happened and occupying my time in a positive way.”
After going into remission, he married his girlfriend, Libby, who supported him throughout, and they welcomed a daughter, Margot, in August.
Toby now wants to use his music to raise awareness for the Anthony Nolan register, and to encourage men aged between 16 and 30 to sign up as stem cell donors.
“I think you always feel like getting sick is something that happens to other people,” he said.
“When it happens to you, you realise how important donors are.
“It gives you the chance of saving somebody’s life. It’s a very minimal thing to give, and I think it’s vital. It is a truly altruistic act.”
Rebecca Pritchard, head of register development at Anthony Nolan said: "Toby’s passion is heart-warming and his experience is powerfully reflected in his music.
"His recovery and personal journey is the happy story we hope everybody who receives a stem cell transplant will one day have.
"We are really happy Toby was able to find a matching donor and is sharing his experience, through music, to raise awareness for need of more people to sign up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register – because every day five people will start their search for a matching stranger who might save their life.
"If this single can inspire more young people aged 16-30 to consider joining the register, we will be able to save even more lives."
For more information on the appeal, go to www.anthonynolan.org/toby.