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Jun 14, 2012

Yesterday I took the plunge and joined "Be the Match." I had already joined it on-line, but Tuesday's mail brought me the swabs & the instructions on how to submit a cheek swab. Yesterday I saw the envelope sitting on my desk and decided to go for it. I was a little skeptical of the collection process, being that there's no sterilization of instruments, no depositing of the swabs themselves into some type of media culture or even a plastic baggie for shipping purposes - but I suppose these folks know what they're doing.

I put the envelope in the mail last night on my way out to group, and today the mailman will pick up my Dionucleic Acid samples and send them on their merry little way to Minneapolis where some lab tech in his white coat & goggles will type my tissues to see if they match any of the thousands of people on the waiting list.

Two days ago, Robin Roberts from Good Morning America came on TV to report that she had contracted MDS, or myelodysplastic syndrome. She went on to say it's known as pre-leukemia, and that she needs a bone marrow transfusion to beat the disease. Her older sister will be her donor, and is a near perfect match to her own tissue types.

My own oldest sister, a nurse, used to work in the Pediatric Bone Marrow Unit, and later in the Adult Bone Marrow Unit, at Duke University Medical Center in Durham NC. I remember her stories of patients who were deathly ill, her description of the process of the transfusions, her sorrow whenever she would lose a patient. At that time I thought about becoming a donor but never quite got up the nerve, and really didn't know where to go or how to go about doing it. That was before everything was available via Internet, so I didn't have many options beyond donor drives that happened infrequently and always during the daytime when I was working or in school.

Around the time she was working there, one of my good friends & a beloved mentor, Tim McLaurin, died from esophageal cancer, something he said was unrelated to his previous bout with multiple myeloma. For me, that first bout with cancer had been my first exposure to his writings - as the Independent, a local news magazine, had featured one of his short stories in an issue published just as he was undergoing that treatment. Tim was also lucky - his baby brother Bruce was a near perfect match, and the transplant gained Tim another 13 years of life - thirteen years in which to guide and mentor his own children, as well as the children of hundreds of North Carolina families, as they passed through the halls of N.C. State University. Myself included.

Tim said his motivation to survive the first cancer came from his children:

My motivation to defy the statistics comes mostly from my love for my children. When I was first diagnosed with myeloma, Christopher was only three years old, Meghan five. No way was I going to leave a son and daughter behind with no memories of their father. Knowing my probable future, I have worked hard with both my children to know them early, to go ahead and climb the mountains and canoe the rivers while there was still time. The result is that we are very close. (from Tim's Indy Obituary)

As I become a donor and wait for my tissues to be typed, I am thinking back fondly of the time I spent with Tim, and the time that a blood marrow transfusion can give to all who survive the horrific assault on their bodies from the deadly cancers that seem to proliferate in today's society. I remember the patients my sister was able to discharge, to return to their families and a prolonged lifespan, more time to love, more time to grow, more time to nurture their families and children. And I think that perhaps someday I'll be part of someone else's recovery. As scared as I am about maybe having a needle puncture my hip bone or having to deal with a few flu-like symptoms if I donate by PBSC, dealing with the short span of pain and discomfort that would cause, would be 100% worth it if it could save someone else's life. It would be 200% worth it, if that person's love and kindness could radiate outward to touch as many family, friends and even readers of books, as did that of my good friend Tim McLaurin.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Thursday June 14, 2012, 5:08 am
Tags: cancer blood be the robin donation roberts tim multiple independent syndrome match marrow myeloma mclaurin myelodysplastic [add/edit tags]

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Kristen H.
female, age 46, married, 3 children
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