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First-ever bone marrow drive planned for Rugby

By Staff | Jun 23, 2009

Many people wouldn’t hesitate to help if they knew they could save another person’s life.

Local residents will be asked to take the first step in hopes of doing just that at a bone marrow donor drive on Sunday, June 28 at the Rugby Eagles Club from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Stop in for breakfast and learn about how simple it is to become a bone marrow donor and help the thousands of people in need of a transplant.

Each year, people from across the country are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases like leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease and lymphoma. Many of them need a bone marrow transplant from a genetically-matched donor to survive. Only about 30 percent find a match in their family. Most patients depend on the National Marrow Donor Program to find a donor. ?Local residents can help by making a financial contribution to help sponsor a donor and/or by signing up to become a donor. Potential donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60. At the breakfast, those who qualify will be asked to fill out some paperwork and give a cheek swab. The information will be added to the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The money raised will be going toward the cost of the testing. The cost of having each sample tested and added to the national registry is $52. The goal is to raise half that amount locally and utilize federal grant money to pay for the other half.

You can also make a donation through the website http://foundation.marrow.org/gotojeanneb or send a donation to the “Be the Match Foundation” c/o Kathy Blessum, 3141 69 St. NE, Rugby ND 58368. One hundred percent of the donations will go toward the donor match project.

The goal is to gather samples for at least 100 potential donors and raise $5,000 for the cause.

Jeanne’s story

The bone marrow donor drive is being organized by the friends and family of rural Rugby resident Jeanne Berg. She was diagnosed with leukemia in early March and began chemotherapy treatments shortly thereafter in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. Initially, Jeanne’s sister was a match and was considered for the donation, but doctors later determined that was not possible.

Those who give a cheek swab at this local event will have their name added to a life-saving list of donors. Organizers know that this event may not turn out to help their friend Jeanne by finding her a donor, but they are coming together to help her and others in need.

Denise’s story

Rugby resident Denise Myhre can give a first-hand account of a bone marrow donation story. She was on the receiving end just six years ago.

Her story begins with a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1999.

In the spring of 1999, Denise had a cold she just couldn’t get rid of. Then after finding a lump in her groin she consulted with Dr. Skipper, then surgeon at the Heart of America Medical Center, who removed it and had it sent in for more tests.

When Dr. Skipper called her the very next day, Denise knew something was very wrong – and she was right. It was cancer.

She underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and 36 days of radiation. Then about 18 months after her ordeal began, Denise started to experience back pain. She returned for a check-up and found out the lymphoma had returned.

She then traveled to Rochester in 2001 for a stem cell transplant and more intense treatments of chemotherapy. She received the transplant from her own cells and stayed in Rochester for three months recuperating.

Denise eventually returned home, only to have the cancer show up again at her 100-day checkup. This meant more treatments in Bismarck and then a trip to a cancer treatment center in Omaha, Neb.

The next step was drastic, but probably Denise’s only hope of eradicating the cancer. The search for a bone marrow donor began. Denise was very fortunate to find that two of her six siblings were a match – a sister and a brother.

The decision was then made to take the bone marrow from her sister and proceed. By July 2003, the transplant was complete and Denise was on the road to recovery.

“It’s made my relationship with my sister a whole lot better,” Denise explained. “We used to visit now and then before and now we talk all the time. We’re much more connected now.”

Denise remains involved in the fight against cancer through the Lymphoma Society and various fundraising events. She’s been cancer-free now for six years but still keeps close tabs on her health with checkups every six months.

Denise realizes that many people might be apprehensive about the idea of becoming a bone marrow donor, but she says it’s a much simpler process than it used to be years ago.

“It not a scary process anymore,” she said. “It used to be, but it really isn’t anymore. It just has to be something you really want to do. In a lot of cases, you would be saving someone’s life.”

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