05/10/2013 09:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How a Facebook Page Helped Us Find the Joy in Mother's Day Even When Mom Is Sick

Justin Klein

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Every Mother's Day is special to me. My mother didn't make it to my Bar Mitzvah. She didn't walk me down the aisle at my wedding and she never met my three beautiful children. She passed away when I was nine. Dad didn't get to see me graduate from law school. He didn't make the wedding either, nor has he met my kids. He passed in my early twenties -- cancer. Both of these facts have given me a truly different perspective on Mother's Day.

This year, my family will celebrate Mother's Day in the hospital -- four days post transplant and the day before my wife Shira's 36th birthday. Still, we will celebrate together, as we always do.

Shira has been battling a life threatening disease for the last three years. A life threatening disease, that when diagnosed, included the sunny disclaimer, "That's the good kind, you can cure that one." Since then, we've endured dozens of chemo treatments, radiation and a stem cell transplant. Shira has not yet been cured.


Late last year, after learning Shira needed to find an unrelated stem cell donor for a second stem cell transplant I did two things I never do: 1. I asked for help; and 2. I signed on to Facebook.

In my mind, even though my entire generation has flocked to Facebook, I never quite grasped the appeal of sharing every detail of what was going in my life. However, seven months and 26 life-saving donor matches for people around the U.S. later, I can now say that I get it.

It was late on a Tuesday, and with the help of some friends and the encouragement of family, our Facebook Page, Smiles4Shira, was born. I could never have imagined the onslaught of love, selflessness and support my family would enjoy from the Facebook community. What had started out as local support transformed into a worldwide movement that is averaging more than three donor matches a month to help save the lives of other mothers, fathers, sons and daughters battling blood cancer.

Since we started the page, Smiles4Shira, has amassed thousands of followers and proven the power of social media. Our motto, "Keep smiling," has gotten me through the hard times; Shira has the most radiant and intoxicating smile. Luckily, she's also passed that smile on to our three beautiful kids.


My plea to the world, when I learned about the next step of Shira's treatment, was to get the world to send Shira their smiles, and to hear our message: No matter what curveballs life throws at you, smiling with your loved ones should always be celebrated.

We've worked to raise awareness about Hodgkins Lymphoma and other blood cancers and to educate people on how simple it can be to save the life of someone battling these diseases with a swab of your cheek. This process, called "swabbing," can determine if you're a match for a patient waiting on a stem cell transplant. It's that easy. Our small efforts have yielded over 10,000 "swabs" and, I love saying this, 26 matches to date.

This Mother's Day, we will celebrate the opportunity to keep fighting this "curable" disease, but we will also celebrate something else, helping others. Knowing that our small efforts have helped other mothers (or potential mothers) get an opportunity to spend this and many other Mother's Days with their loved ones is inspirational, and it keeps us fighting.

Live life with passion and always, always, keep smiling!