Tracy was frosting a birthday cake for our son this week; he’s turned 16. She put care into it, picking out colors, fashioning a rainbow, adding little dots here and there on top of a generous layer of chocolate. As she finished, I pulled her camera out and said, “Wait. I’d better get a picture of you and the cake before it’s all eaten up.” “Why? I mean, it’s just…” she began.
A pause. A mutual glimpse. Understanding. Then she nodded as I said the words, “you might not be here for his next cake.”
Tracy’s made it out a year and nearly two months since she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a deadly blood cancer. Only half of people with myeloma make it out five years before they die. She still has no match for a transplant of bone marrow cells from a healthy donor, the only treatment that can cure this disease.
I’m writing this message for the young adults out there who are falling in love. Maybe you’re thinking about children. Maybe it still feels like it all will last forever. Maybe you and that special someone are fantasizing about growing old together. Maybe you’re making those sweet jokes, wondering how you could ever raise a teenager.
Now realize that maybe you won’t get all that together. Maybe the special he or she in your life will be taken away by myeloma, or leukemia. It happens. Or maybe it will be your friends, that fun couple you double date with, who will have that loss.
Feel the pain for a moment. Then brush it away and do something useful.
There are two very practical things you can do about all this, right now, that are simple, quick, painless and absolutely free (and I remember how important “free” is at your age).
- Go to Be The Match, a website of the National Marrow Donor Program, and request a free kit in the mail. You’ll send back cheek swabs that will be profiled for a small handful of genes indicating the sort of sick person with whom you might match in the future, for whom you could at some point in the next 25 years provide life-saving marrow cells.
- Get 5 friends to follow these two steps.
It’s like a wonderful insurance policy, but only if everyone does it. The person you love has a match out there somewhere, and if you tell 5 people, and those 5 people tell 5 other people, and those 25 people tell 5 people, and those 125 people tell 5 people, then you have just added 625 new matches to the registry. That will save someone’s life, someone’s love, someone’s future.
Save the future. Be The Match.