Today is my 33rd birthday. I’m turning the same age as my older sister, Shannon, when she passed away from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). She was diagnosed over two years ago and after an intense 13-month fight with AML she passed away in March, 2017. So, in celebrating the beginning of my 33rd year and the legacy my sweet sister left behind I want you, person under 50 & healthy, to set yourself up to do the one thing for someone else facing a similar battle that can be their ticket back to health and wholeness; Sign up to be a stem cell donor.
For biological siblings the likelihood of a sibling being a match for a donor is 25% (Blood-type has nothing to do with whether you can be a match), and if a healthy sibling match is not found then a search goes into a national database for a possible donor match, and this is where I need your help!
I can vividly remember the day I received a phone call that I was a match for my older sister, and that within me was the possibility of saving her life. I immediately facetimed her to tell her the news and the overwhelming hope that poured over her and my brother-in-law’s faces as they realized she had a ticket out. For individuals with her form of leukemia the only natural way to a complete cure is to have a stem cell transplant. The picture above is of us seeing each other on match day, and you can see the joy on both of our faces. Imagine for a second that she had no sibling match. Could you imagine the despair and the fear that even if your leukemia goes into remission there’s not someone out there to give you the stem cells to correct your body’s blood production process? You can help by agreeing to become a donor and by simply putting a q-tip in your cheek for a few seconds.
In addition to possibly saving someone’s life here are three additional benefits to being a stem cell donor:
- You get hundreds of test done for free. Once you qualify as a match you’ll have a blood draw done that will send your blood through all sorts of tests to make sure you are supremely healthy enough to donate.
- You might get to travel for free! If your stem cell recipient is in California they want you to be as close in proximity to the recipient and you’ll be sent to California for free for the transplant. I know one friend was sent to Australia!
- You’ll be healthier! Knowing that your stem cells are on the hook for not only your life but for someone else’s will help you make healthier choices throughout your day.
Basic info on transplants: Stem cell transplants are used to treat individuals with certain types of leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma. Stem cell transplants are done using two different methods; 1. Bone marrow transplant, used now about 20% of the time, where a donor has a large needle stuck into marrow-rich bones to extract the stem cells from the marrow, 2. Stem Cell blood transplant, used about 80% of the time, where donors are connected to a dialysis-like machine that draws the blood from the donor’s body, filters out the stem cells, and returns the blood back to the donor.
Shannon was never able to get into remission because her leukemia was very strong, so a transplant never happened for us. The fact that I was never able to physically help my sister through a stem cell transplant hurts me daily. I have remind myself that while we never made it to a transplant, that my simply being a match provided hope that one day she could be cancer-free and that was enough to propel her to fight as hard as she did.
I’ve made it my personal mission to make sure that anyone who is diagnosed with a transplant-treatable disease will have at least that, hope for a cure, by increasing the number of registered donors who are at-the-ready to donate.
So, my birthday goal is 1,000 donors added to the registry today! If you feel so compelled to be a hope-giver and stem cell donor please get the registration process started (they’ll mail you a swab kit), and then let me know that you signed up here, so I can personally thank you.
Also, if you feel like being a donor isn’t for you, please consider sharing this on your social media outlets so that your friends can consider donating.
Thank you in advance for making my 33rd birthday memorable!
PS – Another very interesting fact about a stem cell recipient is that the stem cells of the donor are what codes the blood of the recipient. So if the donor is A+ blood-type the recipient becomes A+ regardless of what blood type they were before the transplant. Also, if there’s a reading of the recipient’s blood after the transplant it would say it was the donor’s blood. So you could pseudo-clone yourself by being a stem cell donor, or set yourselves up to perform the perfect crime.