Be the match on Sunday
If you’ve got some time Sunday afternoon, you might just be able to save a life.
Back Creek Presbyterian Church is hosting a bone marrow registry drive from 2 to 6 p.m. There’s no charge but donations are being accepted. The testing is done by swabbing the mouth.
The drive is in honor of Derek Graham, a 21-year-old who was diagnosed with AML leukemia in March 2008.
“As of Tuesday, he is cancer-free!” his mom Cindy reported Wednesday morning.
Because Derek’s cancer has recurred since a prior remission in April 2008, his best bet is to have a stem-cell transplant.
This is much less invasive for donors than a bone marrow transplant, Cindy explained. Donating stem cells is much like donating platelets, and takes just a few hours.Derek’s family includes dad Gary and brother Shane, 24. Shane was tested but was not a match. His parents were told they would not be matches. The family is hoping to get a donor for Derek as soon as possible. He must be cancer-free to receive a stem-cell transplant.
Derek is a graduate of West Rowan High School and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. He is an electrician with E.F. Belk and Sons.
His white cell counts increased in April, an indicator that the leukemia had returned. He’s been at Baptist since May 5, receiving inpatient chemo treatments.
During his first round of treatment for the disease, Derek battled high fevers and was very sick. This time around hasn’t been quite as bad, Cindy says. “He had some issues, but he overcame them. He’s had a positive attitude all the way. I know he’s my son, but he’s been an inspiration.”
Because this leukemia is aggressive, the drugs have been aggressive, too.”When they find it, they jump on it,” Cindy says, “but it is curable with a stem-cell transplant.”
She adds of the disease, “If he’s gonna be sick, he was lucky enough to get this.”
But she also knows if he came out of remission once, it’s likely to happen again. That’s why she’s anxious for Derek to find a donor.
“A stem-cell transplant is his way out,” she says. “As soon as we can find a donor, he will have the transplant.”
At present, two potential donors are being tested. When Derek has the transplant, he’ll be at Baptist for 28 days.
Derek stands 6 feet 5 inches and normally weighs 220.
“He’s a big boy,” his mom says.
After the first round of treatment was completed, he weighed only 165. This time around, he’s only lost about 10 pounds.
“We know Derek’s going to be fine,” Cindy says. “He has gone down a rough, rough road.”
Sunday’s drive has the potential to help Derek and others, Cindy says. “I can’t imagine anything more gratifying than to save someone’s life.”
Back Creek Presbyterian Church is located at 2145 Back Creek Church Road, off N.C. 150 or N.C. 801 in Mount Ulla.
For more information about the bone marrow registry drive, visit www.marrow.org.