Posts tagged ‘Be The Match’
As a veteran Los Angeles city firefighter, Gus Perez thought he had experienced it all – “from bringing people into the world to seeing them leave this world – and everything in between,” including the L.A. riots and the Northridge earthquake. Ten years ago, however, he was blindsided.
Applying for a transfer to the Hazardous Materials Unit in San Pedro, the 41-year-old Mission Viejo resident showed up for the routine physical expecting to ace it. After all, he had mastered the rigorous demands of firefighting for nearly 15 years, he and his surfboard regularly rode the waves – and he felt healthy and strong. Instead, abnormal blood work discovered during the physical led to an unbelievable diagnosis: chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
Perez came to City of Hope under the care of David Snyder, M.D., associate chair of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.
He began receiving the drug Gleevec, which put him into remission. Given the drug’s success, he almost resigned himself to staying on it, yet was drawn to a riskier option: undergoing a bone marrow transplant. That was the option that represented his best chance at long-term survival. Continue reading “‘My cancer diagnosis: What I wish I’d known’ – Gus Perez” »
One in a series of stories asking former patients to reflect upon their experience …
Christine Pechera still finds it hard to watch a 2006 YouTube video imploring people to help a young woman searching for a bone marrow donor. “My heart breaks for the poor girl,” she says. “And then I remember: that girl is me.”
The filmmaker was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002 and underwent chemotherapy, radiation and an autologous transplant (a procedure using one’s own stem cells). She returned to health, but then relapsed in 2005. When the Be the Match registry failed to turn up a donor who would be compatible with Pechera’s Filipino ancestry, her friends helped her produce the recruitment video.
Her search for a match was even featured on a “Nightline” segment chronicling the need for more minority donors.
Finally, a Chinese man living in Hong Kong – who had never seen these videos – was identified as a match. In 2006, 37-year-old Kam Tsuen “Kent” Wong donated the stem cells that saved Pechera’s life.
The two met in 2008 during City of Hope’s annual bone marrow transplant reunion, which was documented by KABC-TV. “I can’t get over thinking that it’s his blood flowing through my veins; it’s his marrow in my bones,” Pechera said. “This is the guy that saved my life.”
Pechera continues to flourish. She recently completed a master’s degree in fine arts from Pepperdine University, emphasizing writing for screen and television, and also became engaged. In fact, her fiancé recently surprised her by nominating her for a wardrobe makeover that evolved into a life makeover on a new Yahoo Web series – aptly named – “Ultimate Surprises.”
We asked Pechera to look back at the time of her diagnosis and to ask herself what she knows now that she wishes she’d known then. What wisdom, soothing words, practical tips or just old-fashioned advice would she give her newly diagnosed self? Continue reading “‘My cancer diagnosis: What I wish I’d known’ – Christine Pechera” »
Sometimes it takes one person’s tragedy to save the life of another. That’s what happened with the 1979 death of Anthony Nolan in England of a rare blood disease. Only 7 years old, he died before a matching bone marrow donor could be found for a transplant. But his case mobilized thousands to register to donate their own cells to people who desperately needed them.
More than three decades later, the bone marrow registry movement he inspired actually brought new life to a toddler at City of Hope named Gavin Wolfrank. Struggling with leukemia, Gavin needed a transplant of blood stem cells to reset his blood and immune system.
His gift would come from Catherine Benson, of England, in 2010. Benson decided to sign up as a potential blood stem cell donor because it was a family tradition: Her mother and grandmother were so moved by Anthony Nolan’s famous case that they registered as donors in the 1970s. They didn’t match Anthony, but their family legacy would eventually make a difference for Gavin, who’s now a healthy 6-year-old boy.
The impact of the three generations’ decision to donate not only spans more than 30 years, but it also brings together two continents. Marrow donation has become international.
Anthony’s mother created the world’s first marrow donor registry in the 1970s, in England. But shortly before Gavin’s transplant in California, the number of registries had mushroomed to 76 across the world.
More than two in every five unrelated bone marrow transplants worldwide involve donors and recipients from different countries. City of Hope has performed transplants using cells from throughout the world, and volunteers who signed up for the Be The Match registry through City of Hope have helped countless others.
As City of Hope transplant pioneer Stephen J. Forman, M.D., puts it: “This emphasizes how small the world has become.” Debates over the merits of globalization continue, but in the case of Gavin and so many other patients, the integration of people across national and cultural borders has brought new hope to those needing blood stem cell transplants.