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A bone marrow-thon

BY Elizabeth Whittington
PUBLISHED June 16, 2009
Be The Match, the new name of the National Marrow Donor Program, celebrates its Be The Match Marrowthon this month. From now until June 22--or when its goal of 46,000 new members has been reached--you can register with the organization for free. The usual cost to register is around $50-$100. This covers the cost of tissue typing the cells you provided at registration, either through a cheek swab or blood sample, to see if you match a potential patient. I would love to be a bone marrow donor. To undergo a relatively simple procedure to potentially save the life of someone with a blood disease, such as leukemia or lymphoma--it seems like a no-brainer. And there is definitely a need. Only 30 percent of patients have a family member who is a match, while the remaining 70 percent must find an unrelated donor through organizations such as Be The Match, the largest, most diverse registry in the world. Unfortunately, I fall under one of the many restrictions for becoming a bone marrow donor. I had spinal surgery at age 13 for scoliosis and now I'm outfitted with rods fused to my backbone. I've been walking around like the Bionic Woman for half my life. I don't make the metal detectors at airports go off and I'm still able to touch my toes. The only limitations I've noticed in the past 17 years are epidurals may be iffy and I can't be a bone marrow donor. I'm sure cancer survivors (excluding those with in situ cancers) feel the same way. The very people who know how important it is to be a bone marrow donor can't donate. So, I'm trying to do my part, telling my friends and family that they can become a donor for free (people love that word) until the 22nd. If I can get one person to register, maybe I'll feel a little less guilty. To register or learn more about Be The Match and its Marrowthon, visit www.marrow.org.
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