Supermodel and entrepreneur Cindy Crawford has it all: beauty, wealth, privilege, fame, and a happy family life: her husband is model-turned-businessman Rande Gerber and the couple have two children. She is also the owner of a successful international beauty brand and home furnishings business.
Yet Crawford isn't immune from personal tragedy and knows what it's like to be touched by the death of someone close to her. “My younger brother Jeff was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was only two and I was eight,” says Crawford. “Sadly he passed away two years later after doing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.” Blood cancers, such as leukaemia, prevent a person's immune system from working properly, which means they can die from an infection that a healthy immune system would be able to combat. In the UK, almost 38,000 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer or related disorder every year.


Awareness and donation


Jeff's death affected Crawford deeply and, to this day, informs her outlook on life. Which is why, for years, away from the cameras and her business interests, she has poured her energies into fundraising and becoming an advocate for blood cancer awareness and bone marrow donation. She is also still involved with the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, where Jeff was treated.

 

“Jeff was so brave in his fight against leukaemia. Being involved in helping fight blood cancers is a way for me to honour him”


Apart from doing good, Crawford's role as an advocate has been an important part of the healing process for her and her family.
Last year Crawford opened up to Oprah about Jeff and his illness, paying tribute to him and talking about her heartbreak. “My mother said she found him sitting in his room at his little table and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m praying.’ And she said, ‘What are you praying about?’ He said, ‘So that when I die, you’ll be OK.' As a mum now I can’t imagine hearing your child say that.”
Indeed, it's only since having her own family that Crawford has realised the enormity of what her mother and father went through. “Only when I became a mother myself, I began to understand what that must have been like for my parents,” she says, explaining that her brother has been a “rocket booster” for her life. “He was so brave and courageous in his fight against leukemia and I channeled his energy into the things I was trying to conquer. Being able to be involved in helping fight blood cancers is a way for me to honour him."


Powerful and effective


Donors make a huge difference to the lives of blood cancer patients. For example, Anthony Nolan is a UK charity which uses its register to match potential bone marrow donors to blood cancer patients. According to its statistics, around 2,000 people in the UK are in need of a bone marrow transplant every year, which is usually their last chance of survival. The charity points out that black, Asian and other ethnic minorities are under-represented on its register, and urgently needs people from those backgrounds to sign up.
“I have seen how bone marrow transplant is a powerful and effective tool in the fight against blood cancers,” says Crawford, pointing out that not every person who needs a bone marrow transplant has a match from a family member. “The more people who register for bone marrow donation, the more chances some of these patients have for a match.”