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A Fully Sincere, Snarkless Public Service Announcement


I’ve been reading this awesome book that Sam recommended to me called the Emperor of All Maladies (which won the Pulitzer Prize this year), with the  subtitle “A Biography of Cancer.” The author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, writes so effortlessly, looking at the history of cancer and the fight against it, that you really get a great sense of the development of science and understanding how medicine works, but also the relationships between doctor and patient, particularly when the doctor is loading your body up with tons of drugs that have never been used on a human before.

I’ve been really lucky in that, so far, most of my family and friends have made it through fairly unscathed by this horrendous, mutant bitch, and what people have been affected have made it through thanks to the amazing doctors and medicines that have been developed. My grandfather had a huge tumor on his brain that was removed and he was back to playing golf shortly. My aunt has been in remission for years.

The problem is, there are SO MANY PEOPLE who are not as lucky, or are not able to get the kind of care that my family got. My awesome roommate just had to move back to California to take care of her mother, who just had a pretty serious surgery to try to rid her of cancer. I have already had multiple students miss most of a school year because of cancer.

I don’t really share this with many people, mostly because it isn’t the kind of thing that just pops up in conversation all that often. But: when I was in college, on a whim (or, probably the case, following some cute girl), I went to some place to be a part of the National Marrow Donor Program. I didn’t think much of it, until a couple years after I finished college I got this weird phone call that I was a potential match for someone who needed a bone marrow transplant. They said that the odds were still pretty slim, but they would run a couple more tests and let me know.

Soon enough, I got a call saying that things looked good, but they needed to do more blood work. So I went to some lab where they drew like 20 vials of blood to run all sorts of tests for West Nile Virus and HIV and the like. I took surveys looking at my health history, went to the lab a few more times to have some even more extensive blood work done. I did a 3 hour physical, where they pulled out all the stops. Finally, I was cleared to go. I’d never had to have surgery for anything, and I definitely had never in my life had general anesthesia. I woke up with this searing pain on my ass, where they had cut small incisions to insert this HUGE needle into a pocket in the pelvic bone over and over and over, extracting marrow. I spent a long time in the hospital bed feeling uncomfortable, except for the couple of times I got up to vomit. The next day was the day I famously watched an entire season of 24 from start to finish, because I couldn’t move. The day after that, I foolishly went back to work, where I wheeled around to kids desks in my chair and felt really terrible all day.

Within a couple of days, though, I was fine. I remember specifically choosing to have the surgery on a Tuesday, since that Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, and I wanted to make sure I would feel good enough to go out drinking.

And, somewhere, (I don’t know anything about the guy, other than that he was a guy), someone is alive and well enough to have great days, to have crappy days, to go out drinking with friends and have a blast, or to bitch about politics or the future of education.

I’m about halfway through the aforementioned book, and I’m continually astounded at how awesome and smart people can be. Yet, somehow, fixing the problem entirely eludes them . So many people, working tirelessly, trying to rid the world of cancer.

I’m glad I found a way to help them. You can too. Join the National Marrow Donor Registry.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 04.28.2011 6:09 am

    Earlier this year I got a letter and phone call from the bone marrow registry. Apparently I too was a potential match. Eventually they didn’t need me, but I got myself prepared to give my awesome marrow away. It also got me thinking about what we do, and what we actually can do, to make a difference in the world. And how huge the gap is between the two. Then I forgot about it until your post.

    There is some good under all your snark and evil!


    • Elizabeth permalink
      04.28.2011 5:21 pm


      I think this post proves once and for all that all Greg’s snark and evil are purely surface décor.

      – Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

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