Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Be the match, regardless

On Saturday we went to a wedding.  Today, we’ll attend a funeral.  I prefer Saturday.

Ed worked with Sean.  He’d struggled with cancer for several years, but was at work just a month ago.  At that time, he went in for a bone marrow transplant but never left the hospital.  I don’t know the family at all so I don’t have any details, but I couldn’t help but remember how sure I was he’d be okay.  I mean, he was getting a bone marrow transplant!  Talk about a miraculous form of medicine.  How could he not be okay?

I can’t hear of a bone marrow transplant without thinking about Sean’s experience as a donor.  We recently received news from the National Marrow Donor Foundation that his recipient is doing well.  It’s been over a year since his donation, and if the recipient wished to get in touch with us he could.  But our contact at the NMDF said Sean’s recipient does not want any communication with us at this time. 

At first I was not happy.  (Definitely an understatement.)  We’d been thinking about the letter we’d write for a whole year!  We’d even imagined what it would be like to meet the man face to face… okay, I imagined that one.  But still, to not want any contact with someone who gave you another shot at life?  How could he?

I'd honk.
But as quickly as my anger appeared, it vanished.  Because it dawned on me that getting in touch with us might be too much for him.  Would it cause him to relive those awful post-transplant days, days filled with pain from the side effects and uncertainty about his future?  Would it bring back too many memories of life with cancer?  Would it be too much, especially if the cancer’s back?

And then my mind turned to Ed.  His donor will find out about his death. If his donor and family are anything like we are, they’re praying for him and so looking forward to news about him. I don’t know what the policy is for surviving family members to contact donors; I hope they’re allowed.  Because it would provide a sense of, for lack of a better word, closure for the donor and his family.  Plus, the donor would get to hear about the man who received his gift – a hard worker who was a, “kind, helpful, brilliant man,” as Corey, a co-worker put it.  Did I mention Corey's two year old son is recovering from a five-month stay in the hospital?  He has leukemia.

Knowing what we know now about the donation process, I asked Sean if he’d do it again.  No surprise, he said yes. Then he asked me if I’d donate, now that I’m in the registry.  No question – how could I not?  Sean’s donor has been given at least a year thanks to his donation; Ed was given a month.  Of course we wish Ed’s transplant had been more successful, but at least they had the extra four weeks he most certainly wouldn’t have had without the transplant.

But the bottom line is cancer sucks.  I’m a writer; I should be more eloquent.  But today that word seems about right.