Two and a half years ago I sat draped in a tattered, faded blue dressing gown across from a stranger who solemnly uttered the phrase: "you have cancer." In Tourettes like fashion four words instantly erupted in my brain countering the proclamation with: "I want to live".
In that moment the stranger (doctor) became my collaborator and together we embarked on what was a harrowing protocol of chemotherapy and radiation. Luckily for me, it was a course of action that offered hope.
For the past two years, recovery from the treatment itself has been challenging. And yet I am fortunate. At the end of February, I will celebrate two years in remission.
When facing a life threatening diagnosis, what rises from the depths of the nether regions and thrashes to the surface is simply life-force refusing contradiction. Paradoxically, in the midst of death defying determination is an exquisite vulnerability that illuminates the eyes and softens the heart.
Less than one week ago, I recognized that ingenuousness in the face of Jennifer Jones Austin, a highly accomplished and compassionate New York City attorney, wife, and mother of two who has spent the last 20 years advocating for disenfranchised children and families.
In short, unless a donor steps forward in the next several months, Jennifer's chances of survival greatly diminish.
Because a transplant may only occur between parties matching genetic tissue, it requires a donor who is of African descent. Unfortunately, since this group is dramatically underrepresented within national and international bone marrow registries, Jennifer's challenge is magnified.
In spite of massive support and numerous bone marrow drives organized in the New York City area, none have succeeded in producing a match.
Fortunately, the process by which one is determined a match for a needy recipient is as simple as placing a swab along the inside of the potential donor's cheek. That's it. And, if an individual is identified as a match for a patient, in most cases a bone marrow transplant generally only requires the donor to give blood.
Although I have neither met nor spoken to Jennifer Jones Austin, I feel certain we share at least one thing in common. She too has whispered those four little words in rapid succession during the wee hours of the night: "I want to live".
If over the next few months a donor does not step forward to offer an exchange of blood for life, it is unlikely that she will have that chance.
Could you be the stranger with a match?
If you would like to attend or host a bone-marrow drive or have a in-home test delivered free of charge to your house, visit: http://www.savejen.com
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