Five years ago, the National Marrow Donor Program (now “Be the Match”) showed up at my college campus to sign people up for the marrow registry. It was a bad year for me, I was depressed and struggling with my mother’s diagnosis. I wanted to find some meaning somewhere, and while it may not have been the healthiest decision at the time, I decided to sign up.
I’d forgotten about all that until last spring, when I got an e-mail from a representative of the NMDP. I’d been matched to a candidate. Was I still interested? Would I be willing to undergo further blood tests to confirm the match?
I thought about it for a couple days, scoured their website, talked with my husband and family, and then agreed. The tests didn’t happen until July, but they confirmed that I was an eligible donor for this person and the best match. Since the recipient wasn’t yet ready, they put me on hold. Being on hold meant that I agreed to donate at an unspecified date, to be confirmed within 60 days. During those 60 days, I agreed to do my best not to engaged in things which would disqualify me from donating–street drugs, pregnancy, tattoos, travel to certain countries, etc.
Late in September, I got the call that the recipient was ready. This meant further tests, which I underwent last week. Yesterday the verdict came back, I was not only the match, but I was in good enough health for the donation process to be safe for both me and the recipient.
I’ll be donating on November 16th. Instead of a regular bone marrow donation, this will be a donation of PBSC, the stem cells that create new bone marrow. They’ll be given to the recipient, whose body will then form new bone marrow based on my healthy marrow pattern. The recipient has MDS, which used to be called pre-leukemia. If the treatment works, then the recipient will not develop leukemia, if it doesn’t, then they will probably develop adult leukemia.
I’m writing about it today for two reasons.
First, I’m very excited to have gotten the news. I’ve been sitting on this since the Spring and it’s great to be moving forward. As the daughter of a long-term, terminal cancer patient, I’m also excited to be able to help another person and family. I know how precious even another few years can be and how amazing a cure would be.
Second, I’d like to encourage others to sign up for the registry. This is a way you can make a huge difference in the life of another person and of their family. You may well be someone’s only chance of a match in the registry. The marrow program covers expenses such as flying to donate (I’m fortunate to be able to donate right here in DC!), hotels, food, transportation, and other expenses incurred in donation.
If you’re too nervous, then don’t sign up now. I’ll be blogging more about it around and on the day of the donation (helpful hubby has agreed to transcribe), so you can get a picture of how the donation process (PBSC in my case) works and an idea of whether or not you’ll be able to do it.
Signing up is easy. You can do it on their website and all they’ll need is a cheek swab. They even mail you a cheek swab kit to return. Take some time to check out their website, it’s got a lot of information about the donation process.
Edited to add: Mapgirl reminds me that minority donors are especially needed, since only 30% of people in the NMDP are minorities. The Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation sponsors drives aimed at signing Asians and Pacific Islanders (for the NMDP).