'This can't be happening to me...' Mother of Three Thrives After Marrow Transplant

Be The Match Feature Story - Lisa, wife and mother of three, was living in Switzerland in 2010 when the bombshell hit: she was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome (Ph) positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)—a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells.

“I was in shock,” Lisa says. “I thought, ‘This can’t be happening to me. Are you sure? I don’t have time for this.’”

But it was true. Within days she began three months of intensive chemotherapy, knowing that she would likely need a bone marrow transplant. Like most patients, Lisa didn’t have a match within her family. Fortunately, her transplant team turned to the Be The Match Registry® and found her matching donor. By year’s end, Lisa received her life-saving bone marrow transplant at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic.

Lisa Becomes a “MUD Blood”
“When I was first at Mayo, one of the nurses said to me, ‘Well, you’re going to be a MUD Blood – a Matched Unrelated Donor,’” said Lisa. “I immediately latched onto that term because it’s from Harry Potter and refers to someone with magical powers but no wizard blood. I thought there was something magical about it.” And there was. Lisa’s transplant proved successful.

“Even so, I knew my life as a globe-trotting, multi-tasking, working mom would be different,” said Lisa. “I’m an engineer, a problem-solver type, so I immediately began to think about how I would use my organization and planning skills in new ways as I continued my recovery.”

Lisa becomes an advocate for Be The Match Through Be The One Run
In early 2011, Lisa learned about the Be The One Run®, a Be The Match® national fundraising event. She and her family launched the MUD Bloods fundraising team for the Minneapolis run. While still recovering, she started emailing. “I had experienced the roller-coaster ride of a donor search and wanted to help more reach successful outcomes,” said Lisa. “There was only upside to my efforts, so I was shameless in reaching out to friends, colleagues and family.  I sent personal notes to individuals and small groups telling my story and asking them to join our effort.”

Lisa has now galvanized her global community for three Be The One Run events, yielding more than 200 contributors and over $35,000 for Be The Match. One hundred percent of the money raised goes to build the registry of potential marrow donors, help patients with medical costs, and advance the science of marrow transplantation.

In addition to building support in Minnesota, Lisa’s family formed a Be The One Run team in Atlanta, where her parents live and her oldest son attends college. Her son recruited his friends to run and join the registry.

Focus on Building a Younger Registry
Lisa knows Be The Match is focused on building a younger registry. Transplant doctors weigh many factors when selecting a donor for one of their patients; the age of the donor is one of them. Registry members between the ages of 18 and 44 are called as a match for a patient more than 90 percent of the time, in part because younger donors provide the greatest chance for transplant success.

“I have friends all over the world of different ethnicities,” said Lisa. “Most of them are over 55, but we want their children to join. We need more young potential donors, especially those of diverse heritage.” But for registry members of all ages, the most important thing you can do is stay committed so that if you’re selected as a donor you’re ready to move forward.  Lisa’s message is this: ‘It’s very simple to save a life. Think about it. If you had a chance, wouldn’t you be willing to do that?’”