Cancer survivor, donor travel to Capitol Hill to encourage conti - KMSP-TV

Cancer survivor, donor travel to Capitol Hill to encourage continued support for national marrow donor registry

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WASHINGTON -

12 million people have already done something you might want to consider doing. A Maryland woman signed up to be a bone marrow donor way back in college. 20 years later, the call finally came.

They were strangers brought together by a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.

“When I got her name and number in December, I wrote it down on a piece of paper,” said Cynthia Speckman. “I was in the car and I went home and just laid it on my kitchen table and I just kept repeating her name over and over.”

“This person I didn't know, this person who I had been thanking the universe for and I had a phone number and an email address. It's like all of the sudden this being, this angel in my world became a real person.”

“I think I was given the opportunity that not many people are given to save somebody's life,” said Kelly Purnell.

Speckman was dying of leukemia when she finally had a bone marrow transplant in December 2012.

“I was really sick,” Speckman told us. “The end was close and the doctors were saying that.”

Speckman and Purnell were on Capitol Hill on Thursday urging support for the national marrow donor program and registry called Be The Match that brought them together. Be The Match was responsible for 6,300 transplants last year.

“It's the last stop,” said Chad Ramsey, Director of Legislative Relations for Be The Match. “It's their only chance.”

After you fill out the paperwork to register, you swab the inside of your mouth. You are supposed to do it about eight times -- kind of like you're brushing your teeth.

African Americans have just a 76 percent chance of finding a match on the registry. It is much higher for Caucasians.

“Where your people were a thousand years ago is where your donor is going to come from,” said Ramsey.

But congressional budget cuts are limiting how many people can be added to the registry.

Purnell said she would do it again.

“There's always a risk with surgery and I don't take that lightly,” she said. “I have four boys and I'm a mom. But the risks were very few and here was a woman that was going to die if I didn't do this.”

Speckman has been leukemia-free for 18 months.

“What are the words you use to tell somebody thank you for allowing me to still be in my daughter's life and to my daughter's law school graduation last month and to learn how to live life from such a thankful, grateful space?” she said.

Online:

http://bethematch.org/

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