Author Archives: James Cook

Ten Reasons to Join the National Bone Marrow Registry

I shot the videos you see below for an August 20, 2016 bone marrow matching drive in Camden, ME — a drive motivated by the multiple myeloma cancer suffered by my wife, Tracy Jalbuena. But almost all of these reasons apply beyond Tracy to one of the millions more who suffer from blood cancer, in places far beyond one small town in Maine.

You don’t need to wait for a bone marrow donor drive to join the National Bone Marrow Registry and see if you’re a match for someone who needs a life-saving transplant.  Click here to visit the Be the Match website and sign up for the registry RIGHT NOW — you’ll be sent a free test kit for a simple, painless cheek swab in the mail.

Reason #1: It’s Painless

Reason #2: It’s Quick

Reason #3: It’s Free

Reason #4: The Only Hope for Multiple Myeloma Sufferers

Reason #5: Tracy Jalbuena is Awesome

Reason #6: Do it for the Kids

Reason #7: Come to Help One Person, Help 1 Million + On the Side

Reason #8: Do it for the One You Love

Reasons #9 and #10: Build Community & Feel Great

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Tracy Needs You: Two Ways to Save a Life

Dear Friends,

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.

Tracy Jalbuena with James Cook in the Camden Hills, Spring 2016

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!

Oregon State University issues Be The Match Campus Challenge Against Blood Cancer

Undergraduates at Oregon State University held a donor drive on their campus in Corvallis last month:

More than 120 students joined the National Bone Marrow Registry with the easy, quick, painless, no-cost act of sitting down at a table on the quad and getting their cheeks swabbed.

That simple act may have amazing reverberations — any time in the next 20 years that someone gets sick with blood cancer, an OSU student will be checked to see if their blood markers match.  If and when these students’ swabs match up, they can give the gift of life to someone in desperate need.

If you watch the video above, you’ll notice that OSU students are challenging other campuses across the nation to do better, to top OSU in its donor count. Has your school organized a bone marrow donor drive yet?  If not, check out the Be The Match on Campus website, which has all the links and resources you need to set up a donor drive on campus.  You can do it — and it works!  Check out these amazing stats.  Through the new Be The Match on Campus program, college students have:

  • raised $53,063 to support the National Bone Marrow Registry
  • added 4,111 new people to the registry as potential donors
  • generated 86 actual bone marrow donations already!

Add your energy to this wave of generosity.  Give of yourself.  Help others learn about the gift of a bone marrow match for people suffering from blood cancers.  Grab a friend, head online, and get a Be The Match on Campus chapter started at your college or university today.

#OregonState #BeTheMatch

In a Season of Gifts, Give Yourself

Christmas Tree 2015It’s the day after Christmas. If you celebrate the December holiday with others, you know the joy of giving something to someone else is often bigger than the joy of receiving a present.  It feels so good to know that someone you care about is smiling, enjoying themselves and enjoying the world a little bit better.

Steven Pinker has recently argued that our world becomes a better place when we expand our “circle of care” to people outside our immediate friends, family and neighbors.  Now that the Christmas season has passed, could you feel just as good knowing that you’ve helped a person you’ve never met?

I think the answer is yes, and there are many ways to find that joy. You don’t have to be rich like Bill Gates.  If you’re a healthy person, you can give the gift of yourself.  There are many people out there who need what your body makes:

  • Give blood.  Every few weeks, your body makes enough extra blood to spare a pint for someone in a health crisis.  Saving a life can be as easy as a few minutes reclining on a cot.  To give blood, call the American Red Cross today.
  • Give a kidney.  You have two and you only need one.  There are many people out there who don’t have a single working kidney, who only need one.  2-1 = 1. 0+1 = 1. That’s two lives for one. To find out how to give a kidney, visit this National Kidney Foundation webpage.
  • Donate marrow.  Many thousands of people are suffering from deadly cancers of the blood – lympoma, leukemia, myeloma.  They’re hoping for a cure that comes with the donation of bone marrow stem cells from another person sharing their genetic type.  Get tested today to see if you’re the match — testing is free, painless as a cheekswab and confidential.  Visit bethematch.org and sign up today.

Christmas is behind us but the New Year approaches.  Will you make a New Year’s resolution to give of yourself?  Why wait for the New Year?  Click one of the links above to get started.

Better Get a Snap

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.

Tracy with Noah's CakeA 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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

So Unique it’s Killing Her: Tracy hits Today to find a Marrow Match

Big, big thanks go out to science writer Linda Carroll of the Today Show for sharing Tracy’s story of multiple myeloma without a match:

“Until she hit 40, Dr. Tracy Jalbuena was one of the fortunate few who seem to have it all. She had a husband she loved, two healthy children, the perfect job and a house in an idyllic spot in Maine.

‘My husband and I used to joke that in a movie, this is the part where the couple discovers they’ve moved into a house built on top of a cemetery and all hell breaks loose,’ Jalbuena, now 43, says. ‘And then it did.'”

Tracy’s been on chemotherapy for 11 months now and she’s done a great job of toughing it out, but at some point the chemotherapy will fail — with its rapidly evolving cancer cell lines, that’s just how multiple myeloma works.

What Tracy and thousands like her around the world are hoping for is a cure that comes with the donation of bone marrow stem cells from another person who shares her genetic type.  You could be the one who saves Tracy’s life or someone else. Get tested today to see if you’re the match — testing is free, painless and  confidential.  Visit bethematch.org to get started.

Is there a Bone Marrow Drive Near You? (April 2015)

Thanks to the Be the Match Foundation, it’s possible to be anywhere in the United States and sign up for a cheek swab kit online that you can return in the mail.  Your cheek swab sample (really no more than a few Q-tips!) will be analyzed to identify your HLA tissue type.  If that tissue type matches the type of someone in need — congratulations!  You get to save a life.

However, just like a music concert offers so much more than listening to a CD, there’s really nothing like the experience of being at a donor drive.  There will be experts there able to answer your questions.  Sometimes you get to meet the people who need your help.  Best of all, you get to see your fellow human beings coming out in droves to help people they’ve never met.  What a feeling it is to see that kind of giving spirit!

There are bone marrow registry events happening across the country every month.  Here’s what’s going on in April 2015:

California: A3M is hosting a huge range of drives across the state.  Click here for details on the following drives:

  • Long Beach: April 25
  • Los Angeles: April 8, 9, 14, 16, 18, 19 and 27
  • Fullerton: April 8, 12, 21, 22 and 23
  • Irvine: April 11 and 26
  • Monterey Park: April 13, 14 and 15
  • Norwalk: April 13, 14, 15 and 16
  • Santa Monica: April 24
  • Signal Hill: April 18
  • Woodland Hills: April 21

Atlanta, GA: Bone Marrow Drive April 7-9 and Marrow Donor Drive & 5K Run, April 25

Bedford Park, IL: Marrow Donor Drive April 8 & 10

Bridgeport, CT: Marrow Donor Drive April 29-30

Bronx, NY: Marrow Donor Drive April 23

Central Islip, NY: Marrow Donor Drive April 16

Chicago, IL: Marrow Donor Drive April 8, Marrow Donor Drive April 9, Marrow Donor Drive & 5K Run, April 11, Marrow Donor Drive April 25 & Marrow Donor Drive April 29

Country Club Hills, IL: Get Swabbed With Nina Beck, April 11

Columbus, GA: Game, Set, Be The Match Donor Drive, Tennis and Mixer, April 11

Crossing, MA: Bone Marrow Drive, April 8

Evanston, IL: Bone Marrow Drive, April 19

East Stroudsburg, PA: Bone Marrow Donor Drive April 16

Fairfield, CT: Marrow Donor Drive, April 17

Fayetteville, NC: Marrow Drive at the Bronco Bowl, April 11

Geneva, FL: Bone Marrow Drive & 5K Run, April 11

Jersey City, NJ: Bone Marrow Donor Drive, April 17

Las Vegas, NV: Marrowthon Donor Drive & 5K Run, April 11

Maynard, MA: Marrow Donor Drive, April  12

Melrose Park, IL: Marrow Donor Drive, April 13

Miami, FL: Bone Marrow Drive April 7-8, Bone Marrow Drive April 26

Monroeville, PA: Bone Marrow Donor Drive April 13

Newark, NJ: Bone Marrow Donor Drive April 14-15

New Providence, NJ: Bone Marrow Donor Drive April 24

New York City, NY: Bone Marrow Drive at The Maze, April 9 & Bone Marrow Drive April 13-14

Philadelphia, PA: Marrow Donor Drive April 14-15 & Marrow Donor Drive & 5K Run, April 18

Pines, FL: Bone Marrow Drive April 9

Portage, IL: Bone Marrow Drive, April 16

Portland, ME: Bone Marrow Drive by Student Nurses’ Association, April 23

Pratt, KS: Bone Marrow Drive, April 14

San Jose, CA: Marrow Donor Drive & 5K Run, April 18

Springfield, MA: Marrow Donor Drive, April 29

Spring Lake, NJ: MarrowDrive, Ladies’ Night @ Commonwealth, April 23

Do you know of any more events?  Post a comment and spread the word!