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).

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily@remodelingthislife October 21, 2009 at 6:53 am

That’s so great, MM. I am excited for you and inspired to see how I can help too.

Kelly October 21, 2009 at 9:22 am

This is a wonderful thing you are doing. I can only imagine how grateful the recipient and their family are. Kudos to you!

mapgirl October 21, 2009 at 9:31 am

Oh that is really great news! I am so glad you can help. I also signed up for marrow donation while I was in college. The Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation came to campus and signed up donors.

Could you please put a note that minority donors are a particular need? African and Asian descents in particular. (Google Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation and you’ll see that at the time of her diagnosis, only 3% of registered donors were of Asian descent and her chances of finding a match were basically zero.) More people = More possible matches.
.-= mapgirl´s last blog ..Stupid Financial Things I Did Last Week =-.

mrsmicah October 21, 2009 at 9:52 am

@mapgirl Added a note about that and a link to the site.

No Debt Plan October 21, 2009 at 10:07 am

Wow that is really awesome of you. Maybe you will blog about this in the future, but I think I’ve heard that donating bone marrow is extraordinarily painful.

If that is true from the PBSC you are donating, that is extraordinary of you — especially for a stranger!
.-= No Debt Plan´s last blog ..Why Relying on Overtime Dooms You to Failure =-.

Kaye October 21, 2009 at 11:37 am

Wow. Your generosity blows me away!
.-= Kaye´s last blog ..WFMW – Using Trip Meter on Car =-.

Kacie October 21, 2009 at 12:08 pm

HOW COOL! I’m so happy for the family, and for you! My husband and I are on the registry. I would love to have the opportunity to donate someday.

Please update us later and let us know how the process went for you.

Do you know how old the recipient is?

Julia October 21, 2009 at 12:59 pm

That’s fantastic. I’m so glad you’re doing it. I had a friend donate a few years ago and I know it’s not an easy process, but it seemd to be really rewarding for her. I’ve signed up for the registry but haven’t had a match yet. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this!

Laura In Atlanta October 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm

This is SO wonderful . . . I hope you will continue to blog about it!

Revanche October 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Congrats (again!), it’s so great that you qualified. I’ll pass along the Cammy Lee information to my friends since I’m defective. (Too light to donate blood, too autoimmune disease to donate marrow.)

And I really hope it’s not painful!!
.-= Revanche´s last blog .."Keep Unread" could be my undoing =-.

Cassie October 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm

This is truely inspiring! What a fabulous way to give back. You are very nice to do this for someone you don’t even know. I can’t even get over that. I would be so grateful if I were the person receiving your donation.

Good for you!
.-= Cassie´s last blog ..I have a confession to make. =-.

Doug October 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Awesome! I pray all goes well.

Akirah October 21, 2009 at 4:45 pm

This is a great thing you’re doing. I can’t wait to read about it.
.-= Akirah´s last blog ..How Well Does Boyfriend Know Me? =-.

Christine October 21, 2009 at 6:41 pm

So proud of you I very nearly wrote your real name out in big capital letters — but since I can’t do that, you can just imagine me yelling it πŸ™‚

I look forward to hearing alllllllll about it!
.-= Christine´s last blog ..Review: Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis =-.

mrsmicah October 21, 2009 at 8:53 pm

@Emily, Kelly, Kaye, Kacie, Julia, Laura, Cassie, Doug Thank you! I really appreciate the support.

@No Debt Plan – actual marrow is more painful during the donation than PBSC. But PBSC requires you to take drugs beforehand which are likely to cause pain. Kind of a trade-off.

@Revanche – awesome. Even if you can’t donate, you’re doing something good by passing along the info and encouraging those who can!

@Akirah the guy I’m working with in Philly says that I’m the 3rd person from our little college he’s helped donate. Small world, eh?

@Christine thanks for your discretion, Love! πŸ™‚ you can always yell on my facebook wall if the urge becomes too strong. πŸ˜‰

J. Money October 22, 2009 at 11:18 am

You = A beautiful human being. Proud to be your online (and offline) friend!
.-= J. Money´s last blog ..Unloading a whole bunch of gift certificates! Who wants ’em? =-.

Patrick October 22, 2009 at 8:34 pm

MM, this is an incredibly beautiful and selfless act. Thanks for sharing this with everyone (I know it had to be a difficult decision), and best of luck to you and your family and the recipient and his/her family.
.-= Patrick´s last blog ..Where Do You Get the Best Roth IRA Rates? =-.

deepali October 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm

hey, so glad to see you doing this. i had a hemo/lymphopoetic cancer scare last year so i’ve considered the same, but was not eligible at the time.

pregnant women should also consider donating cord blood, as applicable….

good luck!

ps-to comment on another commenter – bone marrow donation (in my case, biopsy) is not as painful as it might seem. a tranquilizer helped in addition to the anesthesia.
.-= deepali´s last blog ..mongolian grasslands =-.

Pamela October 23, 2009 at 10:05 am

Good for you! I’m interested to hear about the experience. I’ve signed up in the database, but have not received any calls. Donating doesn’t seem like much “fun” to me, but I figure if it has the potential to save someone’s life, I can handle some discomfort and a few days of pain and inconvenience.

Lora October 23, 2009 at 2:54 pm

That is wonderful:-)

One of my cousins went through all of these steps a few years ago. Then the procedure was mysteriously cancelled with no explanation available. We’ve always felt sad about that, thinking that probably the planned recipient died before the transplant could be done. It is fortunate that your planned recipient has been matched while at the stage of pre-leukemia.

Matt November 12, 2009 at 3:48 pm

This is totally awesome. I just found out that i am a match as well for the same exact thing. Im scheduled to donate Jan 19. Please e-mail me asap

Carrie...On The Cheap November 16, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Wow, that’s an amazing story! What an amazing thing to do for someone. Good luck with your journey.
.-= Carrie…On The Cheap´s last blog ..So What If I Have Kleenexes Shoved Up Both Nostrils =-.

Lori November 17, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I wanted to thank you for your post- I was called TODAY to donate by PBSC! I signed up 2 years ago, but I never thought I would be a random match. I’m so excited, so now I have to fill out a medical form and maybe get blood work done.
I hope your feeling better soon.

Savings November 17, 2009 at 8:49 pm

You said above “and while it may not have been the healthiest decision at the time” why would it be not healthy to donate marrow?

mrsmicah November 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm

@Savings, regarding the depression I was suffering from. It wasn’t a mentally healthy decision made in the best frame of mind.

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