(Bangor, Maine) – At the age of 22 months, Makenna Ward of Houlton was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that affects children and infants. Makenna, now six years old, is alive today because of two stem cell transplants. On Saturday, August 17, caring community members can give hope to children like Makenna and adults who are battling cancer by joining the bone marrow registry at the EMMC Champion the Cure Challenge.
“Adults between the ages of 18 and 55 can join the registry simply by giving five minutes of their time,” says Brenda Clements, RN, MSB, OCN, manager of nursing services at EMMC Cancer Care. “It’s as easy as rubbing a swab on the inside of your cheek. It’s completely painless, and no blood draws are required."
Potential donors are added to a registry that seeks to match them with cancer patients in need of lifesaving stem cell transplants. Finding a match can be difficult for those who need a transplant; in fact, six out of ten people in need of a transplant never receive one. The only way to improve these odds is to continue to grow the bone marrow registry.
Makenna was fortunate because her own stem cells could be taken from her body, frozen, and infused back into her body when they were needed, but for so many other children and adults, a bone marrow donor is the only option. With the need so great, EMMC Bone Marrow Drive organizers hope to make this year’s event even bigger than last year’s, when 209 people were swabbed.
“You may never be called to donate, even if you are added to the registry,” explains Brenda. “But for someone fighting cancer, you could be the one person who gives them a chance to live. The cancer patient who needs your help could even be living right here in Maine.”
The drive will be held from 8 am - 5 pm during the Champion the Cure Challenge at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer. There is no cost to participate. People interested in learning more about participating in the bone marrow drive can call Brenda Clements at 973-8810.