Cancer Changed Their Lives; Bone Marrow Donors Saved Them
College sophomore Cody Biggerstaff was 15 years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Hollis Pence has struggled with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for nearly 15 years. Jen Garner survived cancer and a year later is working for Love Hope Strength to help others with blood cancers. Though in different stages of life and recovery, these remarkable individuals can thank Presbyterian/St. Luke’s, Love Hope Strength and bone marrow donors for their second chances at life.
On June 1, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s partnered with Love Hope Strength to recruit bone marrow donors for the national registry. Local artist Jeff Brinkman performed while Love Hope Strength representatives assisted more than 60 people to “Get on the List.” The process was simple: fill out basic contact information, swish water around your mouth, swab the inside of your cheeks, and let Love Hope Strength send off your sample to put you on the national registry.
Cody, Hollis, and Jen attended the event because they know just how critical a strong bone marrow registry is to the survival of the approximately two hundred thousand people nationally who are affected by blood cancers each year. Hollis credits his bone marrow donor for giving him a fighting chance after six rounds of chemotherapy failed to eliminate the cancer from his body. Both Hollis and Cody’s first marrow transplants from donors did not work, which is why it is necessary to have such an extensive registry available.
Hollis is thankful for his wife’s support throughout his treatment because the ordeal left him “crabby and in pain.” Cody also relied on his family, as his younger sister McKenna provided marrow for his first transplant. Because McKenna was almost too perfect of a match, Cody needed an anonymous donor from the national registry. One year after his second transplant, Cody met Steven, the man from Virginia whose marrow helped Cody heal.
Bone marrow matches are found every day. Whether a patient at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s is matched to a donor from this event or to someone around the world, bone marrow can save lives.
Today, Hollis is looking forward to taking a vacation with his wife and twin children. Cody has completed his freshman year at Colorado State University. They have bright futures thanks to strangers who completed the simple task of getting on the national registry for bone marrow donors. You can get on the list by going to the National Marrow Donor Program website at www.marrow.org.