BRAVE cancer patient Ulrika ‘Riya’ Dandekar – who spent her last days campaigning for stem cell donors – has died at the age of 21.
Her mother Dr Ursula Bahalkar paid an emotional tribute to her ‘beautiful butterfly’.
She said: “Her legacy, we hope, will have been to raise awareness of how simple, quick and painless it is to register online and potentially save a life.
“I want everyone out there to register in her memory – it is a New Year resolution that everyone can keep.
“We are extremely proud of how brave and selfless Riya has been through her illness and the many painful procedures and months of staying in hospital that she has endured.”
The Solihull student made fresh calls from her hospice bed for more stem cell donors in a selfless bid to save others.
Earlier this year, she inspired a huge increase in the number of Asian people joining the Anthony Nolan charity’s bone marrow register.
Her family also launched the ‘Save Riya Now’ campaign on social media.
She died just before 2am on Wednesday, December 31, at Solihull’s Marie Curie Hospice, surrounded by her loved ones.
The inspirational 21-year-old launched an appeal to get the nation signing up to the bone marrow register after discovering 15 cancerous lumps in her body.
Despite a donor being found for her, the rare type of blood cancer she is suffering from never went into remission and the operation could not go ahead.
She was too weak to talk after months of gruelling chemotherapy and more than eight cycles of radiotherapy at Heartlands Hospital.
Days before she died Riya said: “My biggest wish is that every adult, who is medically fit and able, registers as a potential bone marrow donor.
“Every 20 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer and for many, a stem cell or bone marrow transplant is their only hope.
“Every week a new campaign, a new appeal, is made.
“All these appeals are for the same thing – to encourage more people to come forward and join the register.”
Riya was first given the devastating Anaplastic Lymphoma diagnosis after discovering a lump in her armpit last February.
The odds of finding a match were always stacked against her with just a one in 125,000 chance because of the lack of Asian donors.
But anyone could have been a match for the aspiring doctor, who touched hearts across the country with her campaign.
Just seven months after her diagnosis, Riya was told that now her cancer was incurable and she was referred to hospice care to allow her to live her final weeks in comfort.
Anyone aged between 16-30 can give Riya her wish – and potentially save someone’s life – by joining the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org
Riya’s mum Ursula paid tribute to her beautiful butterfly who campaigned to get more people to donate stem cells. (s)