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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Be A Match!

Me and Robin Roberts! Why do I look so short?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to appear on Good Morning America and model an outfit inspired by Taylor Swift's fashion style as part of a Redbook fashion segment. My dreams of being on TV are coming true, one step at a time :) 

I really hoped I would have the chance to meet Robin Roberts while at GMA (my mom and I both love her!), and I mentioned to the GMA producer that I am living with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and have undergone a transplant, similar to the one that Robin will have to endure for her blood disorder, MDS. I was so sad to learn about Robin's MDS diagnosis, she had just reached her 5 years as a breast cancer survivor and it just doesn't seem fair that she should have to go through something else! It's scary, but sometimes the chemo and radiation from one treatment can cause a secondary cancer. They tell you this when you are first diagnosed, but you don't have a choice, you have to proceed with treatment to kill the first cancer, so it's hard to wrap your head around the possibility of a second cancer. MDS is considered pre-leukemia and while it's not cancer yet, her doctors are being aggressive and proceeding with a bone marrow transplant with her sister as the donor. 

Unfortunately my brother Garrett wasn't a match for me (I just knew he would be, God's way of showing me how I should have been nicer to him as a child!) but I was blessed enough to find a matched unrelated donor. I've always heard that people of color, especially black people, have a hard time finding donors. But when I mentioned that to a transplant doctor at Mt Sinai (because I do my research!), he said, "that's not true!". Um, ok. That surprised me because that is what the media always says, but who knows? I actually matched with 3 people and one is a 10/10.  As it turns out, you don't have to be the same race to match, so my donor could be another race. Regardless, there is a lack of minority donors in the registry and many people have died as a result of not finding a match.

Ironically, right after I sashayed around Times Sqaure in tiny red shorts (see video below!), Robin interviewed a woman who had a bone marrow transplant a year ago after her leukemia diagnosis, and she was meeting her donor for the first time. What a crazy coincidence! The woman happened to be black and her donor was a white male. I watched the interview in the GMA green room feeling amazed and hopeful, yet also sad at the possibility that I may have to do another transplant. Right now we don't know when and if I will, but the thought still hangs over my head. It was great to see the donor and the recipient meet for the first time...he literally gave her life! What an amazing gift.

Afterwards, the producers told me to try and grab Robin as she walked back to her dressing room and thankfully I did. I quickly told her my life story and made sure to tell her that my dad is from Mississippi (like she is) and my mother prays for her every day. She hugged me and thanked me for telling her my story, she was so warm and sweet, and of course I asked her to take a picture with me!

Robin is lucky to have her sister as a donor, the woman on GMA was lucky to have a donor (see that video below) and I am lucky to have a donor as well, but not everyone is so lucky, so please sign up for Be A Match and join the national bone marrow registry! It's so easy to do (I signed up in college! Of course I'm not eligible now though…sigh) and it's a fairly easy procedure…plus you get to say you saved someone's life. How cool is that?

My appearance on GMA:

Bone Marrow Donor:

1 comment:

  1. Bless you for sharing your story. I found your story a while back and have been checking in from time to time. Something in this post struck me as interesting. My Mother had Breast Cancer in 2005 and when we were making a decision as to whether or not she should take Chemo or just Radiation, we weren't really told of the risks of developing other Cancers from it. It wasn't something we considered when making the decision and she had both Chemo and Radiaton (just to be sure they got it all). 5 months after finishing treatment for Breast Cancer, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and 26 days later, we lost her. I often wonder if she'd still be here if she had only opted for Radiation. I wish we'd been educated better on those risks. And through it I've learned that you have to educate yourself. Now I know a whole lot about blood cancers. Back then I knew nothing whatsoever. Hang in there dear girl. I will keep you in my prayers.