Yesterday I had the privilege to volunteer at the University of Guelph’s buccal swab event in support of OneMatch, Canada’s national bone marrow registry. Having gone through a bone marrow transplant myself a couple of years ago I was eager to help out in whatever way I could.
The event was an enourmous success with over 1,000 new people registering into the OneMatch program. There are currently almost 800 patients in Canada who are waiting for a match, and because of yesterday’s event, those people now have a better shot at finding one.
I met one of those people yesterday. Her name is Alysha – a six-year-old girl from Guelph who is currently fighting leukemia and is in immediate need of a transplant. Alysha’s amazing. She’s doing well and was running around with her sister, Amy, helping out the other volunteers, talking to the media and being an all round rockstar.
You can tell she’s a fighter. And given the chance I have no doubt she can beat her leukemia. Meeting her yesterday pushed me and the other volunteers to work as hard as we could to make sure she gets that chance.
Seeing her also reminded me of my cousin, Sophie, who is also undergoing treatment for leukemia. Going through cancer is tough for anyone but I can’t imagine what it must be like for a 2-year-old, who doesn’t understand what’s going on. Knowing and meeting these people, it becomes impossible not to want to help in any way you can.
For more information on Alysha and her story, please visit www.operationalysha.com.
This event was also a great reminder of how simple it can be to save someone’s life. The entire registration process took no longer than 15 minutes, involving filling out a registration form and swabbing the inside of your cheeks to collect a tissue sample with a stick that looked like a long Q-tip. That’s it.
From there you’re added to the bone marrow and stem cell registry. Should you be a match for a patient in need of a transplant, and healthy and willing to do so, you’ll be called and given the opportunity to be their donor.
Sidenote: To my pregnant readers out there, something to consider is to store your child’s umbilical cord blood. Cord blood is an extremely rich source of stem cells and can be stored in case your child needs it (and it can be donated to others to use). Talk to your doctor about this option.
The second simple way to save a life is to be a blood donor. During my chemotherapy treatments, and certainly following my transplant as I waited for my new and improved Euro-stem cells to kick in, I required MANY blood transfusions. Transfusions are a key part of cancer treatments and can’t happen without the selfless help of blood donors.
I remember a few times during my treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital when the doctors and nurses were forced to make tough choices as a result of blood shortages in Canada. It really hit home how much the system depends on the public.
To learn more about joining OneMatch (and to have a “do it yourself” swab kit mailed to you that you just drop in the mail again when you’ve completed it), please visit www.onematch.ca.
To be a blood donor, call 1-800-2-DONATE or visit www.blood.ca to find a clinic near you and set up an appointment.
Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.