Bone Marrow Donation


My donor is at war.

cartoon drawing of Mary Sansone

I had a bone marrow transplant in 2020 to combat a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia. A year later, I was able to connect with my donor who I thought was a man out of Poland. It turned out that my donor was a young lady of 23 from Israel.

It still amazes me that she was found and that they managed to get the blood marrow donation to me at the peak of COVID.

Like me, she had two sisters. (I also have two brothers.) She drew pictures of them just like I did while in the hospital. She loved elephants and was planning a trip to Africa with her betrothed to travel the country and see as much wildlife as possible. I fulfilled my dream of going to Africa and volunteering at an elephant sanctuary right before I was diagnosed the first time with AML. I am an elephant fanatic! We had many other things in common and I will be forever grateful for her donation and saving my life.

She is from the West Bank in Israel. The picture she sent of her village is beautiful, with old world homes and stunning sweeping views. So different from our land of strip malls. When I first met her, via email, she was finishing her obligatory service in the Israeli Army.

As the conflict in Israel and Palestine escalated, she was called up to serve. She speaks and writes limited English, but upon preparing for her service, she wrote that things were extremely chaotic.

I was trying to get an update for a long time. Finally, I received word that she and her family are still safe.

The organization that found my donor was Be The Match. A stem cell transplant can be the cure for those of us with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program ® (NMDP), has “the most diverse marrow registry in the world.”

If you are interested in being on the list, you can learn more at It’s relatively painless given advancements in the procedure. When it’s time to donate, you’ll donate blood stem cells either through a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) or marrow donation depending on the needs and best course of action for the patient.

I learned that all those who serve in the Israeli Defense Federation get tested and put on the donor list if they qualify. Even though the testing is mandatory (from what I understand), Shay – my donor) was so excited to be called and informed that she showed eight out of eight positive indicators as a match for me! She sent a picture of herself giving the donation that I will forever cherish.

I pray she stays safe and that peace be restored in that region. Heck, let’s have peace worldwide.

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