Kenton grandmother Sharon Berger, whose family’s campaign for a stem cell donor rallied the British Jewish community and led to a huge surge in donor registrations, lost her battle on Friday.
In a short statement on social media sites dedicated to the Spit4Mum campaign, which was led by her son Jonni and daughter Caroline, the family broke the news of her passing on Friday.
They said they had “so much admiration” for their mother, “who fought a courageous battle which she sadly lost today”. They also paid tribute to the doctors and nurses who had cared for Sharon, as well as to all those who had registered as donors.
Sharon was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (blood cancer) in 2012, and told that her survival relied on finding a matching donor who would most likely come from the Ashkenazi Jewish community, given Jews’ shared genetic heritage.
An enormous registration drive prompted by her family, which was supported by celebrities and run in conjunction with the Anthony Nolan Trust, soon led to a 1,700 percent increase in the number of British Jews registering as donors.
An anonymous matching donor was soon found and Sharon had the bone marrow transplant in 2013, which at first seemed to be working. But in December last year doctors found that the leukaemia had returned, delivering the devastating news on 65-year old Sharon’s birthday, leading to calls for “another miracle,” as she once again underwent chemotherapy at Hammersmith Hospital.
The family, including Sharon’s children and her husband Stephen, were left “in shock” by the news, after acknowledging that they had “got used to the good times”.
Anthony Nolan’s chief executive Henny Braund this week said the charity was “deeply saddened” to hear of Sharon’s death, saying: “Sharon spoke openly and eloquently about her experiences of Myelodysplastic Syndrome and leukaemia, as well as the challenges she faced with her transplant.”
Sharon worked with Anthony Nolan for a number of years to raise awareness of their donor register and raise funds in the search for a cure for blood cancer.
This week her son Jonni said: “I am devastated by the loss of my dear Mum who fought a courageous battle against Leukaemia.
Braund added: “It was a privilege to know and work with Sharon; she will be sorely missed.”