Sometimes it is easier to understand the reality of a situation when you hear the story from real life perspective. It is easier to see the heart of a person when they share their thoughts and take you on a journey through their experience. This is my story, which brings to life some of the human realities of dealing with a life-threatening illness. Please read this in its entirely, take action, and pass along.
When you look up the word “community” in the dictionary, it simply says “body of people living in one locale” or “body of people having religion, ethnic origin, profession, etc. in common.” There is a broader community than that, however, and that is the community I wish to address today. It is the vast community of people who know what it means to love their families, who know they would do anything within their power to save the lives of their loved ones. I write for these people, which I'm sure includes most of you, because I want to share the story of mine.
I am a father of a four-year-old. An average hardworking family man. My son was one at the time I developed health problems that landed me in the hospital. Within days of me going into the hospital, I was told I had Multiple Myeloma, or bone marrow cancer.
I stared in the doctor's eyes, tried to listen what he was saying, hoping to hear the word “cure”. I could not take my eyes off him. I was numb. I could not hear anything but my own voice. “No, it can't be. Me? I never got sick. I hardly ever went to a doctor or catch a bad cold. Why? This happens only to other people,” I thought. What a nightmare. I was very sick. And without treatment, I would not live.
Our family was absolutely devastated in the truest sense of the word. After going through chemotherapy, and bone marrow transplant using my own stem cells, the cancer went in remission. That was 20 months ago. Last January, my cancer relapsed, and now I am going through chemotherapy again. But the doctor is recommending a match bone marrow transplant to save my life. Without a transplant, I have only a five percent chance of overcoming my disease.
First, I must find a donor with matching marrow. My sister is the first option as possible donor, but she is not a match. So I now must find a donor on the
National Marrow Donor Program Registry, a computerized list of more than four million possible donors and their marrow types.
It is sometimes very difficult to find a match. That task is made even more difficult because I am of Iranian descent. Marrow tissue types are inherited just like skin and hair color, meaning that a person is more likely to find a donor within his or her own ethnic group. Unfortunately, the number of minorities on the donor registry is not enough for all of the minorities who must find a donor.
My future depends on how my community responds — not just the Iranian community, but the community of all races who love their wives, their husbands, their sons, and their daughters. Many people are out there looking for matches throughout the nation and the world — people like me.
There have been patients who have found donors in places like France and Japan, bringing to mind the words of a song: Indeed it is a “small world after all.” These people joined the donor registry, fully understanding that “community” is not so much about living down the street from someone but reaching out to others.
I turn to my “neighbors” here in the US — IRANIAN-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Native American and all the other beautiful people of different races and backgrounds — and encourage you to join the registry. Contact your local Blood Bank, call 1-800-marrow-2, or visit
marrow.org and find out how you can be part of this community and give someone a second chance at life.
All it takes is a quick blood test. One of you might just be the donor for me we've been looking for, praying for, and hoping for. One of you might be able to save the life of someone else waiting for a donor.
Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. Think of your loved ones. Think of the times you've shared and the memories you've made together. Dream of the future you want to have with them. Then imagine that future falling apart, disappearing, all because of something called Multiple Myeloma.
But I have a chance. I have hope. My hope lies in people like you coming out to join the Registry. Perhaps you can be an answer to someone's prayers.
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