Beating cancer with one donation

Student submission

Anyone that knows me knows I can’t keep still for very long. Somehow, last February, I managed to keep still for over eight hours while I donated 12 pints of peripheral blood stem cells.

The whole process seemed to happen so quickly. The fall semester of my freshman year, one of my teammates asked if I would go get my cheek swabbed by the Be the Match Foundation while they were at our school. I figured, “Why not? It couldn’t hurt just to swab my cheek.”

On Dec. 2, 2014, I joined the Be the Match Registry. I was contacted later that April to get some medical history because there was a patient that I could possibly match with. Sadly, a few weeks later I received an email that I was no longer needed in this process.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving break that same year– I got a phone call from Be the Match saying that there was a strong possibility that I could be the match for a patient based on my cheek swab. The next step was to set up an appointment to get blood work done to see exactly how well I matched.

About a month later, I got a phone call letting me know that I was a perfect match for this stranger; this 50-year-old man had leukemia, and I could choose to help by donating bone marrow or stem cells. Most people would have taken time on this decision; it was the middle of the semester, and it wouldn’t be easy. I chose to help because I could.

For as long as I can remember, my [grandma] has told me to “offer it up” to God any time I was hurting. I was told there would be pain and side effects along with the procedure, but I was ready to offer it up.

I took three trips to Houston. First, I had more blood work done. On the second trip, I was given a set of shots to be administered with my friends’ help over the next week to boost my white blood cell count.

The shots caused me to have extreme migraines that ended up sending me to the ER; I had a CT scan to ensure I was not having a brain bleed. Everything checked out, and I was sent home with medicine to manage the pain.

The final trip to Houston was the donation. I was hooked up to a machine. The exit line, placed in my left arm, transported my blood into the machine. My blood then circulated through the machine, harvesting my stem cells and sending the rest back in through an entry line in my right wrist.

I have never felt so devoted to something while at the same time [experiencing] such terrible physical pain. Cancer has taken family members away from me before. I know the hurt and struggle it causes for those who fight. I was given the ability to help someone fight, and I could not turn it down.

Many of the Be the Match staff told me how it was unreal how perfectly I matched with this perfect stranger. Yes, in reality he was a stranger, but in my heart, I felt as if I knew him. I couldn’t help but realize that this man was similar in age to my Pop and my Pappy. There was a strong possibility that he was someone’s Pop, or someone’s Pappy. I know I couldn’t imagine life without either one of them. The fact that I could help prolong this man’s life and possibly end his fight with cancer made my decision really easy.

I still get updates on my patient periodically. He is doing well, and that makes my heart happy.