When it comes around

In my last post I wrote about how my Leukemia had relapsed. At the time the plan was that I would be undergoing an autologous stem cell transplant (a transplant of my own stem cells). After more research and consultation, however, my doctors recommended an allogeneic transplant (from a donor) as the preferred course of treatment with the greatest likelihood of achieving a "durable remission." My transplant is scheduled for the end of May.

Thinking about the transplant I remembered something I wrote almost a year and half ago, about Canadian Blood Services OneMatch program, which coordinates marrow and stem cell donors in Canada. I made the observation that if I ever did relapse, a stem cell transplant would be the treatment of choice, and that I might have to find myself a stem cell donor.

Well, luckily for me I have a very common HLA type, so it was relatively easy to find an unrelated donor match for my transplant. For many people, however, the search can take much longer or be futile. This might mean a transplant with an imperfectly matched donor, or perhaps being denied the opportunity for a cure.

Given how significant a stem cell donation can be in saving a life, it really isn't that significant commitment. Of course, as I have mentioned before, I never signed up as a donor, nor did I donate blood, so I am being a little hypocritical now.

But really I am lucky: I have a donor. There are still many others who will be looking for donors, and many who will have trouble finding them. So if you are looking for a way to give back, to give someone hope for a treatment or (hopefully) cure to cancer or other diseases, consider signing up as a stem cell or marrow donor.

And while, at this point, I have no idea who my donor is, let me just say thank you. And thank you to everyone else who has signed up as a donor. Your gift is more important than you can know.