Sometimes it takes celebrity status to move people to action. But other times, the status is irrelevant.
Good Morning America co-host and anchor Robin Roberts shared her battle against myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and charged viewers to support bone marrow donation. Numbers at bethematch.org skyrocketed during her hospitalization, and on into her recovery.
Locally, two young women with cancer hope to have the same sort of effect on bethematch.org numbers. But instead of celebrity status, they’re counting on the support of a generous and giving community.
During her ongoing battle against desmoplastic small round cell tumor, which was diagnosed in July 2011, Chelsey Light has learned about the power of positive thinking, prayer and community. T-shirts, fundraisers and numerous offers to help her have been continual. Chelsey is a 2011 graduate of Oak Hill High School.
Jamie Massey, an Oak Hill High School junior, is not new to the battle against cancer. Her mom, Terri Lynne Massey, died on Oct. 29, 2009, at age 39 after a four-year battle against breast cancer. Her family and community reacted with Terri’s Tribute, an organization which raises college scholarship money for her and her siblings and other kids who’ve lost a parent to breast cancer. They raise awareness about breast cancer with the symbolic world’s longest pink scarf.
Jamie’s diagnosis of leukemia (not related to her mom’s breast cancer) knocked the wind out of her and her family. Once again, her family, friends and community rallied with a fundraising spaghetti dinner and other acts of kindness.
Now the two cancer-fighting women have united forces to bump up the bone marrow donation numbers in southern West Virginia.
“We don’t know what either of us may need in the future,” said Chelsey. “But whether we need a bone marrow transplant or not, we’ve met many other young people who may.”
In treatment at Women and Children’s Hospital in Charleston, the pair have been taken aback by the kids they’ve met, most of whom are years younger than either of them.
“We can raise money for teddy bears or make blankets,” said Jamie, “but we need to do something to affect their health.”
That something will be bringing Be The Match to Oak Hill along with a Red Cross Bloodmobile so that people may give blood and/or register to become a bone marrow donor.
“It’s as easy as swabbing your cheek with a Q-tip,” said Jamie, “and that is no big deal compared to what we’ve gone through with treatments and needles and chemo.”
People ages 18-44 register free with a simple cheek swab, although a blood sample might be requested. Over 90 percent of matches are from this age group. Donors who are older than 44 must register online at bethematch.org.
Be The Match also will collect donations to help offset costs for transplants. A bone marrow transplant, such as Robin Roberts received from her sister, might cost $100,000.
“We would love to have sponsors offset the costs for people who are older than 44,” said Chelsey, “but this event is more about awareness than about money.
“We want the community to come out — our family and friends, our teachers and coaches, our church families and our health care providers, and others to see how easy it is to give life to someone who may not live without their donation of bone marrow,” said Chelsey.
“And, blood transfusions kept my mom here with us longer,” said Jamie, “So don’t forget about how important it is to give blood.”
There is a particular need for donors who are black, Latin, Hispanic and Asian, according to Be The Match.
“I hope we can bump up donations overall,” said Chelsey, “but I am certain we can affect the numbers in these categories.”
Chelsey & Jamie’s Day Donorama is scheduled April 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Oak Hill Gospel Tabernacle on Oyler Avenue. Access the church from the Oyler Avenue exit off U.S. 19 turning left if you’ve traveled south, right if you’ve traveled north.
A live remote by WJLS accompanied by The Big Dawg, live music, T-shirt tie-dyeing and more activities will be included in the event.
To be swabbed for Be The Match, a donor must be 18 years old, and preferably younger than 44. Visit bethematch.org for more details.
Appointments are required for blood donations. Call 304-663-2410.
“We’re counting on our generous community to make a huge difference in bone marrow donation numbers,” said Chelsey.
“You never know when you might be the person in need,” said Jamie.
Terri’s Tribute organizers have set a goal of 100 Be The Match participants, and are limited to 50 blood donors. E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, ‘friend’ Terri’s Tribute on Facebook, and follow Terri’s Tribute on twitter.