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About Blood Cancer

Each year there are over 50,000 new cases of leukemia diagnosed in the United States. Each year, almost 25,000 people will die from leukemia.

Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, which form in the spongy tissue inside your bones called bone marrow. Although there are new and developing drugs and therapies to treat leukemia, an estimated 13,000 patients a year still need a blood stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant to survive.

Hear the stories of a patient in need and a donor who saved a life.

Anthony Daniels is fighting Hodgkin's Lymphoma for the 4th time and needs a bone marrow transplant. Currently, there is no one on the international registry that is a match. This video was produced by Delete Blood Cancer, our partner in helping register patients. 

A Loyola Blakefield graduate talks about what it meant to donate bone marrow to a patient in need. Jeff Jackson swabbed during a Join for Joe Senior Swab Day sponsored by There Goes My Hero. 

Frequently Asked Questions

about leukemia and blood cancer

WHAT IS BLOOD CANCER?

Blood cancers affect the production and function of your blood cells. Most of these cancers start in your bone marrow where blood is produced. Stem cells in your bone marrow mature and develop into three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. In most blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. The main types of blood cancer are leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.

Read more here. 

WHAT IS LEUKEMIA?

Leukemia is a cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream. There are four main types of leukemia: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML); acute myelogenous leukemia (AML); and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT LEUKEMIA?

There are many places you can find out more about leukemia, including treatment and clinical trials. 

The American Society of Hematology is a professional organization for doctors who deal with blood cancer and other blood disorders. 

The National Cancer Institute is a government agency run by the National Institutes of Health and the leader in cancer research. 

The American Cancer Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating cancer. 

HOW CAN I HELP?

Each person reacts to a cancer diagnosis in a different way. Some people want to be public and open about what they are going through, others don't really want to talk about it. So the best thing that you can do is listen and be sincere. 

There Goes My Hero is happy to help with getting on our meal service- please contact Kristina Gaddy at kristina.gaddy@theregoesmyhero.org. 

We also love to organize bone marrow registry drives in honor of patients. Getting friends and family on the registry -- even if a patient doesn't need a transplant -- is a concrete way to show support for blood cancer patients across the globe, and an easy way to save a life. 

Frequently Asked Questions

about bone marrow registration and donation

I'VE HEARD DONATING HURTS. IS THAT TRUE?

Maybe a little, but you are saving someone's life! There are two ways to donate: 


Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Donation: The majority of donations are done through a simple blood donation process. Cells are collected via the bloodstream. On the day of collection your blood is removed with a sterile needle from one arm and passed through an aphaeresis machine that separates out the blood stem cells. The remaining blood is returned through the other arm.  The procedure takes 6-8 hours and is not painful.

Bone Marrow Donation: Marrow cells are collected from the back of the pelvic bone (not the spine) using a special syringe. This is a 1-2 hour surgical outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital. You will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days following the donation. Most marrow donors report that they feel completely recovered within 2-3 weeks of donation.

WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR BONE MARROW DONORS?

Thousands of patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases need matching donors so they can have a chance at life. Patients need donors who are a close genetic match. Even with a registry of millions, 6 out of 10 patients NEVER receive the lifesaving transplant they need. Donors of all ethnicities are needed!

IF I REGISTERED A FEW YEARS AGO, DO I NEED TO REGISTER AGAIN?

If you have already registered as a bone marrow donor, you do not need to register again.

WHAT IS A BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT?

A bone marrow transplant is a lifesaving treatment for people with leukemia, lymphoma and many other diseases. First, patients undergo chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow. Then a donor's healthy blood-forming stem cells are transfused directly into the patient's bloodstream. The stem cells find their way inside the bones and reboot the patient's immune system. 

HOW DO I BECOME A BONE MARROW DONOR?

The first step to becoming a bone marrow donor is to register. In order to join the registry all you need to do is fill out an information/consent form and swab the inside of your cheeks. Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 55, must meet the medical eligibility guidelines and be willing donate.

WHAT IS MY COMMITMENT IF I JOIN?

When you register as a bone marrow donor, you make a commitment to be listed on the Be The Match Registry® until your 61st birthday, unless you ask to be removed from the registry.  You can always refuse to donate if you are a match, but there is nothing worse than a patient believing they have a Hero but not actually receiving a donation. 

WHY DOES A PERSON HAVE TO BE 18 TO JOIN? CAN'T MY PARENT SIGN THE CONSENT FOR ME?

We require volunteer bone marrow donors to be between the ages of 18 and 55, which is standard medical practice. An individual must be 18 to donate because the person must be legally able to give informed consent.

I'M OVER 55. WHY CAN'T I JOIN?

The age limit is not meant to discriminate. We must use chronological age to determine eligibility to protect the safety of the donor and provide the best possible treatment for the patient.

IF I SIGN-UP AS A BONE MARROW DONOR, HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT I WILL DONATE TO SOMEONE?

We cannot predict the likelihood because there is so much diversity in the population. Every person who joins the registry gives patients hope, and new patient searches begin every day. You may never be identified as a match for someone, or you might be one of a number of potential matches. But you may also be the only person on the registry to match a patient in need.

HOW ARE PATIENTS MATCHED WITH DONORS?

Cheek cells are collected with a cotton swab upon registering. Then, the sample is tested for markers called HLA and added anonymously to the Be The Match Registry®. Doctors can search the database for a donor that has the same HLA markers as a patient.

DOES ANCESTRY OR ETHNICITY AFFECT MATCHING?

Ethnicity and heritage are very important factors. Patients are most likely to match someone of similar ethnicity or heritage. Potential donors with diverse ethnic heritage are severely lacking on the registry. Adding more ethnically diverse members increases the likelihood that all patients will find a lifesaving match.

CAN I REGISTER AS A DONOR FOR A SPECIFIC PATIENT OR FAMILY MEMBER AND NOT FOR ANYONE ELSE?

When you sign-up as a bone marrow donor, you make a commitment to consider donating to any searching patient you might match. Donation is voluntary so you are never under any legal obligation to donate and your decision is always respected. However, because a late decision not to donate can be life-threatening to a patient, you should only join the registry if you are prepared to donate to a patient in need.