On September 16th, 2023, Ben Clark married Jayme, the love of his life. But he couldn’t do it without a special person by his side, his stem cell donor, Jan Rolfes.
In 2010, Ben had recently moved to the Sioux City, Iowa area for work when he began to feel ill. After a series of biopsies, he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. He quickly underwent extensive chemotherapy that required weeklong hospital stays. Ben achieved remission but then learned that the cancer had come back and he would need a stem cell transplant. And for that, he would need to find a matching donor.
“Honestly, I was hopeful someone out there was a match. I probably overlooked how big of a deal it really was at the time just due to so many emotions and other scary thoughts. Will I survive this was the biggest scare.”
Fortunately, around the world, a mathematician named Jan had registered as a donor. As a child, Jan remembers his parents registering with DKMS when a family friend’s child was diagnosed with cancer. When he was old enough, Jan did so as well.
A few years later in 2012, he was contacted by DKMS to let him know he was a match for a patient in need and asked if he would be willing to donate. Jan didn’t hesitate, after watching his childhood friend go through and ultimately lose his life to cancer, he knew the impact that his donation would have on someone.
Fortunately, the transplant worked and Ben is doing well. In the time since his transplant, Ben has grown in his career and was lucky enough to meet and fall in love with Jayme. When he asked her to marry him, he knew he had another big question to ask Jan, “Will you be my best man?”
When asked how he felt about meeting Ben, Jan said he was nervous and excited, and he hoped that his suit would fit!
Jan and his partner Kat flew to the US, and Ben and Jan officially met for the first time surrounded by Ben’s friends and family the day before the wedding. They had the chance to talk and get to know one another before the celebrations the next day.
During the ceremony, Ben and Jayme took a moment to recognize Jan and the important role he has played in their life and to give their thanks. They all now have a bond for life, and that bond was only possible because Jan registered as a donor with DKMS.