Brass Bands Get Transplant Tested To Try And Save Life Of Trombonist With Cancer

Stephen Sykes, 26, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Stephen Sykes, 26, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Stephen Sykes, 26, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Brass bands across Britain are pulling together and getting tested for a transplant – to try and save the life of a young trombonist.

Hundreds of musicians around the UK are using swab kits to see if they are a match for Stephen Sykes, 26.

Stephen, a talented musician and conductor who has played with the likes of Sting, has an aggressive form of cancer and is desperately searching a stem cell donor.

But with the clock ticking brass bands across the UK are rallying together through a Facebook campaign to help save him.

Trumpet, trombone, tuba, horn, cornet and bugle players from places including Cornwall, London and Leeds are getting swab tested to see if they are a match.

The musicians are ordering swab tests from either the Anthony Nolan charity or DKMS – and posting their updates online.


Stephen, from Shepton Mallet, Somerset., said: “I started doing a lot of teaching and extra conducting.

”I noticed for probably about a month I was really tired all the time especially on Tuesdays which my longest day of the week.

“I was flat out asleep as soon as I got home which was not me at all. I thought nothing of it.

“Then we got into January and I got a really bad cold, they didn’t normally affect me that much.

“This one was really bad, I could not talk, I could not do anything and I thought something wasn’t right.

“I went to the doctors and by this time I had some tiny lumps on my neck.

“Doctors said ‘if you could pick any cancer this one would be the one to have’.

“During the second treatment I lost all my hair and got to a stage where I stayed in bed for three to four weeks, I could not move.

“Since the second lot of treatment the cancer has gone into my bone marrow.

“Doctors have taken my own stem cells. They cannot find an existing match for me at the minute.”

Musicians around Britain are getting tested with swabs to try and help him.

Katherine Adams wrote: ”Hey Stephen just wanted to let you and your family know I’ve registered and have several members taking a test to see if they can get a match. Keep fighting your a talent and a legend’.

Gordon Eddison wrote: ‘Let’s keep spreading the word and believing.”

Hayley Elizabeth added: ”We contacted DKMS and they said it should always arrive within a week.”

Anna ‘Minear said: ”I’ve just had someone who I’ve never met contact me on the phone really wanting to help – got my details from the Band Club!”.

Stephen was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, or blood cancer, in February last year and has since undergone five rounds of chemotherapy.

But doctors say the talented musician is in need of a transplant and despite a worldwide search they have been unable to find a donor.

Even if a donor is found, doctors need to bring his condition under control before considering him for a transplant.

Stephen was destined for a successful brass career after winning countless awards including the British Open in 2010 and 2013 and the National Finals with the Black Dyke Band in 2014.

He also notably shared the stage with rock legend Sting and performed in front of Prince Charles during his college days in Cardiff.

Brass bands across Britain are pulling together and getting tested for a transplant
Brass bands across Britain are pulling together and getting tested for a transplant

Stephen hasn’t played his beloved trombone since – one of his last performances coming in October 2015 at the Royal Albert Hall for Bryn Terfel’s 50th birthday party.

More recently Stephen started teaching youngsters in his spare time but started coming home from practice “flat out”.

He then came down with a cold around Christmas time in 2015 which “knocked him off his feet” and tiny lumps started to appear on his neck weeks later.

The young man visited the doctors who initially put it down to a virus but when his symptoms failed to desist he returned.

He was sent for a biopsy at the RUH in Bath and was devastatingly diagnosed with cancer.

Doctors were hopeful chemotherapy would cure him of the disease but it so far hasn’t worked.

He started his latest batch of treatment two weeks ago and the family hope it will help bring his condition under control to ready him for a transplant.

His mother Jo Sykes, 46, said: “We are hoping to have swab test stations at events around the country – we are even trying to get one of the stem cell registration companies on board.

“It’s just a cheek swab, it’s like a cotton bud with a longer stem. You rub it around the inside of your cheek for a minute – it’s really simple.

She added: “It’s a blood cancer, he started being ill this time last year. He had what seemed to be just a cold but it really knocked him off his feet.

“Doctors at first said it was a virus which he would recover from in five to six weeks.

“Three weeks after that he got these great big lumps on his neck. We never thought it would turn out to be cancer.

“They need to prepare his body for a stem cell transplant. They initially need to get him to a point where his condition is under control.

“Without the treatment there is no doubt about it, he wouldn’t be here now.

“I always believe there is two of us in the world.”

SWNS_BAND_DONATE_12Musicians from brass bands across the country have been taking swab tests to see if they are a match.

St Austell Band brass teacher Anna Minear said: “St Austell Band have really got involved with this campaign to find Stephen a donor as his dad is the band’s musical director.

“The brass banding community really do look out for each and this is a case of us pulling together to try and find a match for Stephen.

“Within our band everyone who was eligible to become a donor has registered and also encouraged family members to do the same.

“If we aren’t a match for Stephen then perhaps we will be for someone else and to help someone would be amazing.”

People wanting to take a swab test can request them from either the Anthony Nolan charity or DKMS.

Stephen Sykes says he is “humbled” by the public response in his search to find a suitable donor.

He said: “It’s brilliant really. At the end of the day it does not really matter if it doesn’t help me because it could help someone else instead.

“The whole brass band movement has gone all out – it’s not what I was expecting at all.

“I know upwards of 100 people who have got in touch in the last couple of days over Facebook, who knows how many people have gone on to do it that I haven’t met.

“I was never expecting it to be anything more than a few people.”

Stephen says there are plans to hold a swab test station at various regional contests next month.

To find out more about Stephen’s story visit Facebook page Stephen’s Journey.


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