Donor Story

Alyson Donates in Honor of Her Cousin

Alyson celebrated the memory of her cousin, Michael, in her Rocky Balboa shirt while becoming a blood stem cell donor. Michael was a Rocky fan and connected with the inspirational and motivational elements of the character.

Sydney Ross, Digital Marketing Manager
by Sydney Ross
Digital Marketing Manager
Further articles

Meet Alyson. She is an elementary physical education teacher on Long Island. Twenty years ago, she lost her cousin, Michael, to leukemia. Like many others, Michael was unable to find a matching donor and sadly passed away on November 11, 2002 just eight months after receiving his diagnosis. Looking back, Alyson recalls this as a “challenging, confusing, helpless time” for her family.

Michael and his family celebrating his 21st birthday
Alyson as a young child sitting on a white bench with Micheal on her right as a young child
Michael sitting with his arm around Alyson sitting on the left.
Alyson and Michael as young kids wearing party hats and eating burgers

July 6 is Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone’s birthday

DKMS donor Alyson's cousin, Michael, dressed as Rocky at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The perfect day to share Michael and Alyson’s story. Michael was a big fan of Rocky Balboa – a pivotal character of hope, inspiration, and motivation to keep going even when times are hard and we cannot predict the outcome.

Ten years after Michael passed away, Alyson was invited by a friend of a friend to a DKMS registration event at a firehouse for a woman who needed a match of her own. Then, in the summer of 2021, she received a package she never expected. A twenty-year journey was about to come full circle.

Forgotten she had swabbed with DKMS, her jaw hit the floor as she pulled the letter from the box and read that she was a match for a 39 year-old-patient from Germany diagnosed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She couldn’t believe what she was reading, it was surreal. Alyson and Michael were just a year apart in age and were very close, sharing, “No one was able to help my cousin. There was no doubt and no hesitation in my mind that I was not going to do it.”

Alyson went on to donate twice to the same patient and she realized that Michael would have been the exact same age as her recipient had he lived. To honor Michael, she wore her Rocky shirt for both donations.

Being able to pay it forward to someone that she felt represented her cousin created a moment of closure for her. Her whole family was humbled by this surreal moment and we are honored to be able to facilitate events like these.

DKMS Donor Alyson holding her blood stem cell donation in a Rocky shirt
Alyson standing out front of New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center
DKMS donor Alyson holding her stem cell donation bag
More ways to help
You can support the DKMS in many ways and thus give new hope for life to many blood cancer patients.