DENVER (CBS4) – All it takes is a simple swab of the cheek to give hope to a blood cancer patient. That puts people on a national registry and that could save a life.
CBS4 health specialist Kathy Walsh had the swab done years ago. She said it took about 10 minutes.
“I filled out some paperwork and had the cheek swab,” Walsh said. “I’ve never been called to help a leukemia or lymphoma patient, but I’ve met people desperately searching for a match, including one very determined couple from Denver.”
In 2007, Marie Brady and Joe Alpers shared a beautiful beach wedding. Now their dogs and cats are their “hairy” children. Their 118-year-old Denver home is their labor of love as a restoration project.
“We love the neighborhood, we love the house,” Alpers said.
But in October their comfortable world was suddenly rattled.
“It really does feel surreal, like it’s not really happening to me,” Brady said.
Brady was diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia and the prognosis is painful.
“Worst case scenario 3 years,” Brady said.
“When someone tells you that your wife has 3 years to live, that can be a little difficult,” Alpers said.
Brady’s only hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant. Of the 9 million donors on the National Marrow Donor Program, none is a perfect match. But Brady stays positive.
“It just feels like it’s meant to be, you know, that there’s just somebody out there,” Brady said.
The couple has been helping train friends to run marrow drives and they’ve set up drives of their own. They explain registering with a simple cheek swab is fast and painless and important.
“This is a way for you to save somebody’s life and you don’t have to don spandex and a cape,” Brady said.
Brady and Alpers are determined.
“We kind of have this belief that we don’t know what the magic number is, but at some point, whether it’s 500 or 5,000, the universe is going to give us our match,” Alpers said.
The more donors, the better the chances of finding a match for Brady and the thousands of others suffering from blood cancers. People age 18 to 60, in general good health, are needed to join the Be The Match Registry.
Signing up easy. This Friday is “A Day 4 Life” marrow drive. Join Bonfils Blood Center and CBS4 from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. at selected Safeway stores. Those stores are at 14th and Krameria in Denver; Broadway and Mineral in Littleton; and at Thornton Parkway and Washington Street in Thornton. Register to be a bone marrow donor or make a tax deductible donation.