Give the gift of life in 2010
Today (January 16th) is exactly one year since I was diagnosed with relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and admitted to the hospital. Just over 4 months later, on May 29th, I received a stem cell transplant which will hopefully result in a lasting cure.
I was lucky, as I have a relatively common HLA type, so finding a suitable donor was not too diffucult. Others aren't as lucky. Particularly amongst certain ethnic groups the number of registered donors is quite small. This seriously limits the potential for donor matches for patients from these groups.
Less than a third of those needing a stem cell transplant are able to find a suitable related donor, meaning they need to find an unrelated donor through national and international donor registries. The more donors on the registries, the more likely these patients will be able to find a match and receive what is, in many cases, the only available life-saving treatment.
Considering the poor prognosis for relapsed ALL without a transplant, I owe my life to my stem cell transplant, and the donor who made it possible. I want to ensure as many people as possible are able to benefit from this type of treatment, so I have decided to dedicate the next 4+ months, from now until the anniversary of my transplant, to a concerted campaign to raise awareness about stem cell donation.
I'm not sure what to set as a goal for my "campaign" (I'll think about that over the next few days) but if I am able to spread the word and encourage even a few more people to register as donors I will have accomplished something.
As 2010 begins, many people are thinking about how they can contribute to good causes. Given the economic circumstances many people face, monetary donations might be a little harder this year. Fortunately, registering as a stem cell donor costs nothing and gives you the opportunity to save a life. There aren't too many opportunities like that.
If you'd like more information and links to the organizations that coordinate stem cell donation, I'm compiling a list of links on this page ("Be a donor" on the top menu). There will also be more posts over the next four months, so check back for more information and stories.