Stewart Francke Cancer Outreach
It’s been ten years since I underwent a related allogeneic stem cell transplant as the treatment for leukemia. A lot of suffering, healing and education has followed for all of us associated with my family, friends and our cancer outreach. Today I’m grateful to be alive and thankful to the Karmanos Cancer Institute staff and the thousands of individuals who involve themselves in the cancer war daily.
Bone marrow transplants have provided life-long cures for patients dealing with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkins Disease and now other diseases. Unfortunately, finding a suitable match (if a genetic match is unavailable) can be arduous and expensive. In addition, the cost of merely searching for a bone marrow donor can also prohibit patients from getting the chance they deserve. Therefore a transplant isn’t an option for all people. I was very fortunate. One of my two sisters was a perfect genetic marrow match, which increases my chances of living a full life and watching my children grow up.
With an initial endowment of $50,000, we established a fund at Karmanos to help fund bone marrow searches for minority and low income patients unable to find a match with a family member. Karmanos is now getting insurance companies to match the amount the patient receives from our fund. That fund still exists—if you feel compelled to donate to it, you’d continue to save lives through finding marrow matches.
We have tried to spread the funding we received: We donated to Gilda’s Club, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Bone Marrow Transplant Link and The Children’s Leukemia Foundation for their Special Needs Fund, which covers the expenses that fall through the cracks of traditional aid programs (e.g. lodging, rent/mortgages, cars, food, child care). I’ve also tried to do smaller things on my own, including performances at churches, the Light The Night Walks, counseling fellow patients through the National Bone Marrow Transplant Link and numerous media events. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned, how hard people work, and how much fortitude and hope lives in their eyes.
Because the characteristics of marrow are inherited, a patient is most likely to find a match within his/her own racial group. Minorities that search The NMDP Registry (National Marrow Donor Program), with its current donor pool, are less likely to find a match than a white patient. The simple fact is that the more donors that enlist in the NMDP, the better the chances that patients of every racial background have in finding a matched donor. We’re proud of Detroit’s complex cultural makeup and look at this as a challenge that can be fought quickly and well.
Joining the NMDP Registry is quick, easy, and painless. A swab of cheek cells is taken to determine the donor’s tissue type, which is then added to the Registry. People interested in joining the Registry can join at a drive in their area, or online at www.marrow.org. To learn more about becoming a donor, visit www.marrow.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2. Be the one to give hope, be the one to save a life. Join today.
Another program we began in 2003, Musician’s Outreach of Michigan (MOM), brought musicians into patient’s rooms and waiting areas at Karmanos to play for cancer patients and their families. We hope to continue that in 2009 and beyond with more donations to either MOM. Mostly, we hope to continue to reach across any cultural barriers and get the word out to those in need of information about cancer and bone marrow transplantation. We all have something to give: If not your money, your marrow. Thank you for your continued generosity.