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In The Pipeline: Someone has to be a match

I received a note several days ago from a mutual friend, beginning "Just this past September, Michelle Parkin was abruptly diagnosed with advanced leukemia… She is a mom, just like so many of us, in love with life, modeling a healthy lifestyle for her children, and highly involved with activities that her children participate in."

The note then went on to describe what led to the diagnosis. She had simply been at home with her daughter, felt something wrong, and suffered a stroke. Once at the hospital, she suffered a second stroke. In diagnosing what caused the attacks, the doctors discovered acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), which is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

For two months, Michelle had to remain in the hospital, simultaneously recovering from the strokes and fighting the cancer. She was allowed to come home for Thanksgiving, and as of this writing, is preparing to return to the hospital for a third round of aggressive chemotherapy.

The note described how Michelle has impressed everyone around her by recovering from the strokes and responding well to the chemotherapy. And more hope beckoned: Michelle was accepted into the National Marrow Donor Program through City of Hope and they are in the process of conducting the all-important search for a match.

I spoke to Michelle this week about how she, her husband, Eric, and their 10-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter are coping.

"We are very fortunate to have the friends and family we have in our lives," she said. "This totally came out of the blue. I was in what I thought to be perfect health. I'm a marathoner; in fact, I had just run seven miles the day I had the stroke."

Now, beyond wonderful family and friends, Michelle needs a community's help. She needs a marrow transplant to help battle her disease. The National Marrow Donor Program's Be the Match Marrow Registry and City of Hope is coordinating a bone marrow drive, in her honor, from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 15 at Marine View Middle School, 5682 Tilburg Drive, in Huntington Beach.

The registration process will take roughly 10 minutes, during which you will be asked to fill out paperwork and give a cheek swab sample. You will be registered until you are 61 years old and will only be asked to donate marrow or stem cells if you are identified as a match for a particular patient in need between the time of registration and your 61st birthday. Most patients (about 70%) in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. They depend on the Be the Match Marrow Registry to find an unrelated donor or cord blood unit, so this is important.

You may have questions about the process should you be designated as a proper match. I've read all the material this week, and it's amazing how simplified the medical process has become. That said, if you do have specific questions, you can call Sharlene Risdon at City of Hope at (626) 359-8111, ext. 60633.

Michelle needs a special gift this holiday, as do her husband and children. There are 200,000 people in this city. Let's see if we can get this done.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at chris@chrisepting.com.

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