Belfast Telegraph

Terminally ill Pete McCleave's joy as appeal adds almost 30k to list of UK stem cell donors

Pete McCleave with wife Jen and sons Maxwell and Sebastian
Pete McCleave with wife Jen and sons Maxwell and Sebastian
Pete McCleave at the Ironman challenge in Wales

By David Young

Terminally ill father-of-two Pete McCleave was celebrating last night as the campaign he launched to get 10,000 people signed up as stem cell donors reached its first anniversary, having smashed through its initial target.

Pete, whose family roots lie in Northern Ireland, also revealed the campaign has also found its seventh stem cell match - a remarkable achievement for the 41-year-old as he deals with his own terminal cancer diagnosis.

In March 2017 Pete was diagnosed with myeloma (blood cancer) and told that he had seven years to live - unless a stem cell donor could be found.

He had just completed the Welsh Ironman competition in September 2016 when he felt ill.

Doctors diagnosed pneumonia before discovering lesions on his body.

The investment banker, who lives in Cheshire, said: "The McCleave side of my family are from Northern Ireland.

"My grandfather James McCleave came from Belfast and served in the armed forces, travelling the world while enlisted."

James McCleave met the woman who was to become Pete's grandmother in Macau, at the time a Portuguese-administered territory near Hong Kong.

"I'm a mixture of Irish/English and Chinese/Portuguese, so my best hope, really, is Ireland and Asia," Pete said.

"So far the response has been amazing, but the more people from Northern Ireland who sign up, the more chance I have of finding that elusive match."

His campaign has smashed its initial target of 10,000 registered donors. "As of today we have added more then 29,742 donors to the stem cell register for the UK," he said last night.

"Each one increases the chance that me or another blood cancer patient just like me will find the match that could prolong or save our lives."

In a touching tribute to everyone who has helped his campaign, Pete said: "I hope you feel as proud of what we have all achieved as I do.

"Words don't do justice to how I feel about your unwavering support, friendship and love.

"Thank you to each and every one of you who are part of team 10,000 donors."

Pete said the response to his call for people in Northern Ireland to sign up to the donor register had been brilliant.

"People got in touch with me immediately.

"The Lisburn Triathlon Club have been raising money and running donor drives at every race they've done. They've given me mega support. I've also had messages of support from all over Northern Ireland - and have even made some connection with distant family members."

He's still campaigning to raise awareness of the donor register.

"The key is that people - at zero cost to themselves - can register and donate something that could save someone's life.

"Everyone has millions of stem cells in their blood.

"They replace themselves within a couple of weeks.

"People should understand that right now you can save somebody's life."

"I just don't want anyone to be in the situation I was in," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Pete is still searching for a stem cell donor match that could combat his own cancer.

"That's just part of the challenge. But it's great that the campaign is delivering some wonderful things for people, too.

"That's the real key, and long may it continue."

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