And for those of you interested in joining the registry and becoming a bone marrow donor, listen up: during the Be The Match Marrowthon, you can join online for FREE between June 8th through 22nd, while funding lasts. Their Marrowthon goal is to add 46,000 new members to the registry and I encourage you to consider being one of them. Hurry, you only have 7 days left!
When I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia back in January, 1988, one of the first things my doctors did was tissue test my three siblings to determine if they were a bone marrow match. No one was and my treatment plan changed from bone marrow transplant to four courses of chemotherapy. Fortunately, for me, the chemotherapy worked and my cancer went into remission. But for many others in this similar situation, a bone marrow transplant IS the treatment that they absolutely need.
It is easy to become a bone marrow donor, especially now during the Marrowthon. Just go online and sign up. Usually there is a $52 donation required for the tissue typing test, which is a simple swab on the inside of your cheek to collect DNA, but during the Marrowthon the cost is waived while funds last. (If you do pay the fee, rest assured it is a donation to a non-profit charity and may be tax-deductible---ask your tax preparer for more information.) Once the tissue typing is completed, your name and results are placed into the registry where they wait for someone who needs you and is your match...
If you are a match, stem cells are now collected one of two ways:
- most commonly is a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection which is an outpatient process similar to an apherisis blood donation
- the second donation method is a bone marrow harvest, which is usually an outpatient surgical procedure
I had a bone marrow harvest back in 1989; it was done as a precautionary measure during my first year of remission to give me a treatment option if I relasped and my leukemia came back. I don't remember the actual procedure because it was done under general anesthesia. I did have some "pain in the butt" afterwards---it kind of felt like I had been kicked by a horse. But the peace of mind I obtained knowing that my healthly marrow was stored "in case of emergency" was worth the pain and overnight hospitalization.
As a bone marrow donor, any pain or inconvenience you experience will be worth it when you remember that your bone marrow is giving someone a fighting chance to stay alive.
Thank you, bone marrow donors! Your kindness and generosity has the heroic power to save lives.
I want to let you know about the website HealEmru. Glenn Grant, the artist who created the flyer featured at the end of this post, is part of the HealEmru website. He read my tweet about my bone marrow donors blog post, contacted me on Twitter and sent me this message: Imagine my surprise when I read your empassioned blog post and seeing a poster I designed at the end. Thank you so much. <3
Emru Townsend was a bone marrow transplant recipient and fellow leukemia patient like me. Unfortunately, after an 11 month fight, he died peacefully on November 11, 2008. Before his death, he focused on getting the word out about the need for bone marrow donors of color: person of African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Indian, Native American/First Nations and mixed heritage. His friends and family continue the website in his memory and work to get the word out about registering to become a bone marrow donor.
Please check out the website, www.healemru.com, for more information. This website is also on Twitter as @healemru.