Super Star Advocate: Becky Tombleson

Posted February 20th, 2018 by Be The Match and filed in Volunteer Stories
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“Advocacy and policy is daunting, but not impossible and I’m buoyed by the sense that I can make a lasting impact in laws and policies that effect patients and their access to care.”

Becky, legislative advocate

Becky Tombleson is a clinical pharmacist with over eight years of experience at Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida and has worked in the Blood and Marrow Transplantation program for most of those. Becky got involved with the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP)/Be The Match® because, “as the years go by, one thing remains critical to my patients and their outcomes: access to care. That care takes on many shapes as a prescription that gets denied or a transplant that gets delayed. I have become passionate about access to care watching our patients struggle with financial burdens that complicate their lives and inhibit their outcomes. Our patients are fortunate to have vocal advocates and allies in NMDP and Be The Match.”

Last year Becky traveled with the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) and the NMDP in an effort to garner support from our lawmakers in Washington for the Protect Access to Cellular Transplant (PACT) Act, HR 4215. When asked about her experience and advice for new advocates, she said, “at first, I was very intimidated! I like to follow policy in Washington closely and as much as I tried to calm myself down, our lawmakers still seem like celebrities to me. Once I was able to visit with a few, I realized I was able to play an important role in their education and how much of an impact that makes on our patients. Our lawmakers are very educated in a number of ways but lack the insight I have as a clinical pharmacist – I found them grateful to learn of the impact access to care has on our patient’s lives.”

Becky is passionate about policy change because, “as time has progressed, I see advocacy and policy as a way to reach out beyond my institution, to patients I will never meet, and hopefully make the process an easier one for them. There are so many ways to impact patient care and I think my focuses have just gone a bit broader than before.”

Many people have never met a lawmaker before, but don’t worry because Becky has great advice. “Think through what you want to say and what is likely to leave a lawmaker with the clearest sense of what you do, what the patient need is, and how the legislation you’re discussing can make that a reality. Our lawmakers care about the interests of their constituents and want ultimately, something that will be beneficial to their lives. Our lawmakers are also involved in many different initiatives and bone marrow transplant is a complicated issue that many people don’t understand that lack experience with it. Also, try to stay calm if you’re easily dazzled by some lawmakers like I was!”

Becky also took the time to get others involved. “I was very fortunate to collaborate at Moffitt Cancer Center with our Federal Legislative Affairs Director. We were able to discuss in detail the PACT Act and how it could not only benefit our patients, but others as well. We both agreed that our institution sets a high standard in caring for patients that depend on access to transplant and that should be communicated to our lawmakers. We were thrilled to see the support we had and the impact that has had on the PACT Act. As one of the most nationally renowned cancer centers in America, we knew a letter of support or call could make all the difference.” And it did. Within a week Becky and her efforts added two co-sponsors!

You too can be a super star like Becky! If you want more information on how you can be a volunteer leader and super advocate, email Jess Knutson.

Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Teach

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Tom Teach’s commitment to Be The Match® started when his 4-year old grandson, Ben, was diagnosed with ALL and AML. Ben received a bone marrow transplant and for nearly six beautiful months after, Ben laughed and smiled as a cancer-free little boy. But when Ben’s leukemia returned, nothing could be done. Tom and his family said goodbye to their sweet boy in February 2015.

Today, Tom is a dedicated member of the Foundation’s board and a passionate champion of Be The Match. Tom is a Navy veteran and he and his son spoke at the Naval Academy and with the help of the Department of Defense, recruited more than 700 potential donors to the Be The Match Registry®. Tom continues to participate in leadership roles at registry drives at the Naval Academy. As a Notre Dame alum, he utilizes his contacts to raise awareness and help recruit registry members at Notre Dame games. He has also extended his efforts to Goshen College and Bethel College.

In addition, Tom has become a tireless fundraiser for Be The Match Foundation®. He helps acquire key sponsorships for the Be The Match Walk+Run event and participates with his friends and family as “Team Ben.” Over the past three years, his team has raised more than $165,000 for the Chicago Be The Match Walk+Run.

“Tom’s service to Be The Match is an excellent example of true volunteerism,” says Nicole Kersting, Senior Development Manager at Be The Match. “In addition to his recruitment and fundraising efforts, he is willing to step in with any in-kind request large or small through his foam packaging company.”

The impact Tom continues to have on patients and their loved ones is huge. Due to Tom’s efforts, more patients are able to get a second chance at life.

Looking to get involved? Find a volunteer event near you.

Meet Lorayne, Peer Connect volunteer

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Lorayne, transplant recipient and Peer Connect volunteer with her grandchildren

Lorayne was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in October 2011, and 5 months later received a transplant from a donor in Germany.

She remembers how bewildering it was to get her diagnosis and how hard it was for her to process all the complexities of getting a transplant.

So she was grateful that her transplant team didn’t just focus on her medical and physical needs, but also helped her connect with someone who had been through the transplant process. That person was Wendy, a Peer Connect volunteer, who helped Lorayne address her fears and anxieties about transplant.

And now Lorayne wants to give back and help others going through the transplant process. She has been a Peer Connect volunteer for about 4 years now.

“Everyone’s journey is difficult,” she says. “I feel like they want to know that they can do this.”


Forming special bonds

Be The Match started its free Peer Connect program because transplant patients and caregivers reported that they benefited a great deal from talking with someone who’s “been there” and “gets it.”

“A lot of people just need to talk,” Lorayne says. “I understand what they’re going through. I had all those fears and worries, too.”

Lorayne, now a grandmother of 7 and 5-year-old grandsons and a 2-year-old granddaughter, was a kindergarten teacher. Because of her profession, she says that she knows how to be an active listener, which she says is critical to transplant patients and caregivers. “As a teacher, I think I have the temperament,” she says. “I’m encouraging and empathetic.”

Some people have frustrations with their family or their medical center, she says. One way Lorayne helps people is by giving them a chance to verbalize those frustrations, which allows them to unburden themselves.

“My experience as a volunteer is that people are so ready to talk ─ and need to talk,” Lorayne says. “They want information, they want their fears and anxieties addressed, and they want reassurance.”

Part of that reassurance for patients and caregivers is simply talking to someone who has successfully gone through the transplant process, says Lorayne. “I think back to my experience talking with Wendy. She got through it and she was alive. People want to know there is life after transplant.”


What to expect from the Peer Connect program

The Peer Connect program matches volunteers with patients or caregivers based on the request. Some people want to talk to someone who is close to their age. Other people may want to connect with someone who has the same disease or other life circumstance.

In one instance, Lorayne connected with someone who had the same type of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) that Lorayne did. Talking with another person who also had to deal with GVHD of the liver helped that patient a lot, Lorayne says, but the connection was also a learning experience for Lorayne and their connection gave comfort to both of them.

Lorayne’s approach when assigned a Peer Connect patient is to email the person first, to arrange a convenient time to talk on the phone. The first call can be as long as needed, Lorayne says, and begins with Lorayne asking about their experiences and their current situation.

“As they’re able to talk, I’m able to share my experience with them,” Lorayne says. “They can expect a listening ear, a comforting volunteer, who will be there for them even beyond a phone call.”

Typically, Lorayne and her connections will talk again or connect by email a few more times. “As volunteers, we’re always there for follow up,” Lorayne says.

Request a connection

If you’re struggling with your transplant recovery, you are not alone. No matter where you are in the transplant process and recovery, and whether you’re a transplant recipient or caregiver, our Peer Connect program can connect you with a trained volunteer who’s been there.

Visit to request to talk with a Peer Connect volunteer.


Volunteer Spotlight: Marcia Diefendorff

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Marcia Diefendorff first decided to get involved with Be The Match® when a family friend was fighting for their life and needed a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. She reached out and asked how she could help after learning about the marrow donation process and the great need for more donors to join the Be The Match Registry®.

Marcia began volunteering at local events throughout the Peninsula and South Bay Area in California where she educated people about Be The Match, the need for new registry members, and the importance of saving lives. It quickly became clear how talented Marcia was at teaching and interacting with people, which is no coincidence as she had been a teacher for many years.

Not only did Marcia volunteer around the time of her friend’s transplant, but she continues to stay extremely involved. You can still find Marcia at events two to four times a month and even up to four to five times a week during the busy season! Her dedication and generosity has not gone un-noticed. Marcia now trains other volunteers about the registration process, runs her own events, and continues to make meaningful connections with everyone she encounters.

“She improves every event she attends and is one of the most genuinely kind people I know. When I’ve called to thank her she usually says that she appreciates the call, but doesn’t do it for the thanks you’s,” says Amber, friend and former Be The Match Community Engagement Representative.

Marcia has made a huge impact already and continues to by volunteering for Be The Match. She has added many new potential donors to the registry, which provides patients with more hope and a chance at finding their life-saving match. Marcia’s dedication and years of service has earned her the Daily Point of Light Award as well as the title, Volunteer Ambassador of Be The Match.

If you’re a proud Be The Match volunteer like Marcia, share your support on social media with one of our volunteer badges.