It’s been nearly two years now since my wife and best friend Tracy Jalbuena was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of immune cells in the blood. Here’s the good news: thanks to attentive care at Pen Bay Medical Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Tracy is disabled but in remission for now.
While she’s in remission, as long as it lasts, Tracy’s got a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face. People who see her on the street say to her, “you look great!” (I agree). The insidious nature of multiple myeloma, though, is that it attacks her beneath the skin: her bones, her blood, her immune system have been repeatedly assaulted, and she’s been on constant chemotherapy for 22 months with no end in sight. She won’t tell you this if you meet her on the street, but she’s sore, she’s sick and she’s so very tired — and that’s while she’s in the relatively smooth patch of remission.
Tracy and our kids and I have been trying to embrace a normal-like life as long as this remission lasts. Tracy’s spending as much time with the kids as she can. She’s taking walks, singing in a community chorus, and doing community service for our local EMS services — but while she’s doing this, and while we her family are at her side, we’re looking over our shoulders with this fact in mind: even with medical advances, median time to death is only four to six years for myeloma cancer patients. The cancerous cells in myeloma are persistent, maybe even clever: they adapt and change to whatever treatment we throw at her. Tracy’s remission will inevitably, eventually, fail.
Right now there’s just one treatment that offers a hope of a cure — a bone marrow transplant. Tracy’s eligible for the treatment, but she needs a special person who matches her very rare bone marrow type — and in two years of searching we haven’t been able to find anyone with marrow quite like hers. YOU or YOUR FRIEND could be the one. You could save her life.
Please, for Tracy, for our two kids, and for me too, could you do two simple, easy things?
1. Are you between the ages of 18-44? If you haven’t already, visit http://bethematch.org/join and sign up to receive a testing kit in the mail. It’s simple, free, and painless (really! just a cheek swab). This test will let the National Bone Marrow Registry know what type of bone marrow you have, and if you match Tracy or someone else, they’ll give you a call and let you know. If you match Tracy or someone else who’s sick and in need, you can donate some of your bone marrow cells WITHOUT SURGERY (it’s a bit like a blood donation — find out more here).
2. Can you let 4 or 5 friends know, too? Share this message with them on Facebook, or by text message, or by e-mail, or in a face-to-face talk. Your message is simple: visit http://bethematch.org to get a free, painless test kit and find out whether they’re the special person who can save someone’s life.
These two simple steps would mean so much to me, my kids, and all the people who’ve met Tracy and know how special she is. Thank you!