I was a freshman in college, surrounded by thousands of new faces and countless new opportunities. One of those opportunities was joining the bone marrow donor registry.
I was stopped on campus one afternoon and told that a simple cheek swab could potentially save someone’s life. I thought, “Okay, sure, I have 10 minutes to pass before my next class.” Little did I know, the experience I was going to have would be so profound that I would go on to work for DKMS and help advocate for the thousands of blood cancer and blood disease patients that are still in search of a donor.
When I joined the registry as a freshman in college, I knew that I would be willing to help if I ever matched with a patient. Truthfully, I never expected that I would have the opportunity to do so, but I still knew that should I ever get the call, I would go through with the donation.
On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, also known as Giving Tuesday, I found out that I was a near perfect genetic match with a woman diagnosed with leukemia. My peripheral blood stem cell donation was officially confirmed and scheduled. It felt strange knowing that our genes were similar enough to possibly cure this woman’s cancer – a woman who I knew absolutely nothing about. My family and friends were mostly supportive, some were nervous about how the donation might affect me. To me it just seemed like the right thing to do; that in the grand scheme of things, I was being asked for a small favor – everything would be set up for me, all I had to do was give my time.
I am a peripheral blood stem cell donor. Throughout the journey, I have constantly found myself thinking – what would have happened if I had not joined the registry?
The time leading up to the donation might be the healthiest that I have ever been. My hopes for this woman’s good health had spread to my own. I wanted to do everything in my control to ensure that I was giving her the best part of me. On the day of the donation, my mom and my friend spent the day in the hospital with me; we ate, talked, and hung out while my stem cells were being collected. There is a huge misconception that the donation process is painful. I had minimal discomfort, before, during, and after the donation. Despite feeling tired, I was back to normal the day after the donation. After all this time, I am still surprised by how organized the whole process was and how much support was provided.
I joined the bone marrow registry thinking maybe one day I could help someone else, not knowing the impact that it would have on my own life. The more time that passed after my donation, the more curious I became. My research came with a lot of frustrations –
What would have happened to my recipient if I had not joined the registry? What will happen to other patients if more people don’t join the registry? What can we do to help?
If you are thinking about registering as a bone marrow donor, do not wait until it hits close to home. If you are uncertain – ask questions, get informed, reach out to DKMS and learn more about what it means to register. There are thousands of patients searching for a cure, that cure could be you. If you are unable to register but are moved by the DKMS mission, there are plenty of other ways you can get involved and make a difference in someone else’s life.
If I were asked to donate again, I would say yes. Without thinking twice. There are many misconceptions about the donation process. Based on my experience, I put in a small amount of effort for an outcome that was as large as life itself.