In 2010, four days before exchanging Valentine’s Day hugs and kisses, life changed for Traci and her family. Doctors discovered a rare, non-cancerous brain tumor, known as a craniopharyngioma, growing on her daughter Camden’s pituitary gland.
Upon hearing the diagnosis, Traci immediately focused on helping Camden through treatment.
Today, Camden is a happy, healthy college junior who has made the dean’s list every semester. While she does require daily medication including growth hormone injections, her mother said the family feels “truly blessed” by Camden’s recovery.
Having watched her daughter beat a life-threatening disease, Traci desired to help other families dealing with serious illnesses. “With true gratitude and love in my heart, I knew that I needed to give back in some way,” she said. “I wanted to give the gift I received to someone else.”
When an elementary school in her community of Milford, Connecticut hosted a bone marrow drive for a six-year-old boy who had leukemia, Traci knew she had to attend. “Here it is – my chance,” she said, “how perfect.” At the time, Traci said she did not know much about Be The Match® but, felt driven to join the registry. “I knew this was it,” she said. “I was meant to do this.”
After what Traci described as a “quick swab of my cheek,” she said she left the drive feeling excited about her decision to help another person in need. Little did she know she would soon get a phone call that would change her life yet again.
“I got the call,” Traci said. “I’m a potential match! I was told it was my decision to move forward with donation.” I thought – are you kidding me? It would be my honor to donate.”
Traci was told by her donor center representative that she would give marrow in the form of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), one of two methods of donation. When starting the donation process, “Be The Match handled everything,” she said. “They made me appointments for things like my blood work and were with me for every step of the donation.” Traci said other than a one-time fainting spell during her first blood draw, everything went smoothly. My first thought after I fainted was that if Be The Match finds out, they won’t let me donate. I certainly couldn’t let that happen.”
At the appointment for her physical, Traci said the next blood draw went perfectly. “The staff and physician were wonderful – I passed with flying colors and without fainting,” she said. “Let the donation begin!”
Although she was “a little scared” prior to receiving her five Filgrastim injections, a drug given to stimulate a donor’s stem cells prior to donation, Traci said the process was “not as bad as I expected.” She was able to continue working while receiving the injections.
After the fifth day, Traci and her husband traveled to the Rhode Island Blood Center for her donation. “And so it began,” Traci said. “I had a wonderful crew of nurses coming in and out. My husband stayed right there with me.”
While the donation process was going smoothly, inclement weather nearly caused a problem for Traci. “About half way through my donation, the power went out,” she said. “The entire staff instantly was on their feet and in action. Thankfully, they had a generator and my donation continued.”
Despite the incident, Traci’s donation was successful.
One year after her donation, Traci was given the contact information for her recipient’s family. Traci then began communicating with her recipient Jeremy’s mother, Suzanne, through social media and email.
What began as an online relationship has bloomed into a lifelong friendship and connection between the two families who met in August 2013 and have plans to do the same this summer.
For Traci, being a marrow donor completes her mission to honor her daughter’s journey. “When I think about Jeremy, I am overwhelmed with gratitude,” she said. “Gratitude for being his match, gratitude that Jeremy, just like Camden, gets to live his life. Gratitude that I will be part of it and that I was able to give him part of me. I love him.”