Little Emilie!

Posted January 16th, 2018 by Be The Match and filed in Patient Stories
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Little Emilie!

At 9 months old, Emilie Meza was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and her family was told that her best hope for a cure would be a marrow transplant. She is now 1 year old, and has not found a match on Be The Match Registry®. After searching for a marrow match, her doctors and family made the tough decision for her to receive a haploidentical marrow transplant from her father, Eduardo Meza. A haploidentical transplant comes with extra precautions, as this means he was a half-match to Emilie, not a full match. While recent outcomes of haploidentical transplant are promising, many marrow transplant doctors prefer a fully matched adult marrow donor over a haploidentical marrow donor. But this was the best option available for Emilie.

Emilie’s family continues to encourage others to join the registry and support Be The Match® so that other families don’t need to make the tough decisions they have regarding alternative treatment options. Emilie received her marrow transplant from her father, and is now continuing to recover with her family and doctors by her side. You can get frequent updates on her recovery from their facebook page, Emily Meza’s Bone Marrow Transplant Journey.

Please consider signing up for a monthly financial gift to help patients like Emilie find a fully matched donor on Be The Match Registry. Your financial support helps add more potential marrow donors to the registry, fund advancements in marrow transplant science and provide relief to patients and families facing financial barriers to treatment.

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“What is Inspiring?”

Posted December 3rd, 2014 by Be The Match and filed in News
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Five-time Jeopardy! Winner and Be The Match Supporter

wedding-photo-69 (2)Sarah had watched Jeopardy! her whole life. She imagined the day when she would stand under the hot Hollywood lights and amaze people question after question. One thing she never imagined, however, was that her mother wouldn’t be there sharing in Sarah’s moment.

In February 2013, Sarah’s 62 year old mother, Marilyn, received the heartbreaking news that she had acute myeloid leukemia. For months, Marilyn stayed in the hospital receiving chemotherapy. Thankfully, by summer, Marilyn went into remission and was healthy enough to watch her daughter walk down the aisle.

Marilyn’s doctors were planning on pursuing a bone marrow transplant soon after Sarah’s wedding. When no one in Marilyn’s family was a match, her doctors turned to Be The Match Registry and found a volunteer marrow donor.

“Unfortunately, shortly after my honeymoon,” Sarah said, “we found out the cancer was back. We were told she would need more chemo to try to get back into remission before the doctors could do a bone marrow transplant.”  Sadly, Marilyn passed away before she could make it to transplant day.

While Sarah’s mother was unable to receive her marrow transplant, Sarah is grateful for the man who was willing to honor his commitment and help. “Having that person out there, gave us a lot of hope,” she said.

On The Air with Jeopardy!

Just two weeks after her mother’s passing, Sarah’s Jeopardy! dream came true.  During the filming, Sarah made a decision. Her mother may not have been able to watch her compete, but Sarah made sure to keep Marilyn’s spirit with her throughout her five winning appearances. “My mother always wanted to give back,” said Sarah. So, she decided to use Jeopardy! as an opportunity to bring awareness to the organization that brought her family hope – Be The Match.

During her one-on-one interviews with Alex Trebek, Sarah spoke about the importance of joining the Be The Match Registry. As a direct result, she learned that some viewers were so moved that they signed up for the registry. “It’s really gratifying to feel like [my mother] made an impact on others. If I influenced someone else to join, maybe that someone will go on to save a life,” said Sarah.

Sarah has taken the tragic experience of losing her mother and turned it into a chance to prevent more losses like her own. With some of her winnings from her time on Jeopardy!, she plans to help fund donor drives to add more potential donors to the registry.

You can be an advocate like Sarah. Take a minute to learn more about our Action Advocacy Network and then sign up to join.

Jade is a recent transplant recipient. This is her story.

Posted October 8th, 2014 by Be The Match and filed in News
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fight-transplantday2Super Wonder Jade

“Never. Ever. Givvvve up! Never. Ever. Givvvve up!” This is the cheer of smiling, bubbling, 4-year-old Jade. What is she cheering for? Courage to beat her cancer.

A fighter from day one, Jade’s journey began with unexplained episodes of limping, joint pain and fever. An otherwise healthy toddler who could run circles around her older brother, Jade’s parents, Jaytoe and Taneika, were puzzled. Multiple visits to the emergency room and they still didn’t know what was wrong.

On January 5, 2012, a few days after celebrating the New Year, Jade was admitted to the hospital for a persistent eye infection. Trusting their gut, they asked for additional tests. “We figured while we were there, why not get to the bottom of it once and for all,” says Taneika.

Eager to help, Jade’s doctors listened to the list of symptoms and explored many options. Ultimately, the news was devastating. Little Jade had cancer—acute myeloid leukemia (AML). “We were floored. It was hard to swallow because she wasn’t even two years old yet. We were still getting to know her and watch her grow, but hearing this diagnosis almost felt like a death sentence,” says Taneika.

wonderkids2Eight months and five rounds of chemo later, Jade was in remission. Like any parent, Taneika was overjoyed, but she was worried that it was too good to be true. They filled their days with fun activities like visiting museums, baking cookies, painting and dancing to Jade’s favorite tunes. “Our family had a renewed sense of living life to the fullest, but I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder.”

When Halloween arrived, Jade was old enough to help pick her costume. “She absolutely loves dressing up and equally loves ‘saving the day,’” says Taneika. “Familiar with traditional princess costumes she was soooo excited to see the warrior princess Wonder Woman costume.” Completely thrilled, Jade declared herself “Super Wonder Jade” with powers to fight the “bad guy cells.” The nickname stuck and Jade continues to call herself this today.

Relapse

On March 19, 2014, just a few weeks shy of celebrating Jade’s fourth birthday, her leukemia resurfaced. “It was harder to hear the news the second time. We thought we had it beat, but we didn’t,” says Taneika.

Immediately, Jade’s doctor’s explained that a marrow transplant was her best shot for a cure. “They told us that relapsed AML was more difficult to treat. They also told us the likelihood of finding an unrelated donor was very low because of how uniquely made Jade is, because of our ethnic backgrounds.” The frightened family knew it would be a tough battle, but brave Jade took the news with grace.

“Jade returned to the oncology floor like she owned the place,” says Taneika. “Wandering the halls, serenading the staff at the nurses’ station, and quickly finding her place in the art room.” But, despite the familiarity, things were different. Jade was a big girl now. “The halls were the same, the staff was the same, but Jade had the ability to ask questions like: Why are we here? When are we going home? Why can’t my friends come over?”

Thankfully, Jade’s cheerful nature quickly won over and she settled into her routine filled with activities such as singing “Let It Go” as she said good bye to her hair, swishing “magic mouthwash” to lessen the pain of mouth sores and earning more than 500 beads of courage—one for every procedure.

In her journal, Taneika wrote, “Jade was so playful, so brave and so strong throughout her treatment, even after a rough chemo session. And she would just say, ‘I’m smiling for me.’ We absolutely believe that her spirit and attitude helped her heal… helped strengthen our faith and our resolve that she would be cured.”

day1transplantadmission2Re-birthday

Finally, on July 3, after months of searching, transplant day arrived. Unable to find an adult donor, doctors located a 5 out of 6 cord blood match.

Pronounced Jade’s “re-birthday,” the special day was filled with celebration banners, cupcakes and Jade’s favorite thing in the world—music. “She proceeded to dance for an hour straight, grabbing our hands and pulling us to the dance floor one by one,” says Taneika.

Exhausted, Jade finally fell asleep as nurses hooked up an IV pole for her new, life-giving cells to drip slowly into her body. “When you hear the word ‘transplant’ you think surgery…sedation…but it was not like that at all,” says Taneika. “The whole process took less than two hours.”

The Jade Parade

Twenty-four days after transplant, Jade was allowed to make her first trip home. Having seen parade-like, end-of-treatment celebrations before, Taneika was overcome with emotion as Jade exchanged her Beads of Courage for her requisite sunglasses, high filtration mask and tiara. “She went out in style, leading the staff decisively toward the elevator cheering, ‘I’m brave, I’m strong, I’m ready for whatever comes along,’” says Taneika.

By day 29, Jade was 100% donor cells. She did experience some early setbacks with graft versus host disease (GVHD) and liver damage, but Jade is currently healthy, happy and cancer free.

snowday2Forever Thankful

Taneika is at a loss for words when thinking about the gift their family received. “Thank you seems inadequate… We wish there were words beautiful or accurate enough to fully express our gratitude for this incredible gift — for saving our daughter’s life and keeping our family whole,” she says.

“With each milestone that Jade reaches, every smile that she cracks, each hug that she shares with us, we are eternally grateful to the mother who made this possible when she donated her newborn baby’s cord blood, to Be The Match for facilitating her gift, and to Jade’s medical team for their incredible support. We thank God for them all. We will certainly be reflecting on that this holiday season and hoping not only for Jade’s continued remission, health and overall rock-stardom, but also for a match and a cure for all of the parents, grandparents and children who need it.”

The family is also grateful people like you who support Be The Match by making a financial gift. “Thank you for helping to give meaning to Jade’s journey. We often ask and wonder, ‘Why Jade? Why did this happen to our sweet girl?’ There will never be a satisfactory answer to those questions, but we are so heartened that her story, her spirit inspired you to make a gift that will help heal another family like ours that has been turned upside down by cancer.”

Help kids like Jade. Give a child the gift of life.