Last spring, when Landa Dowdy, senior history and social studies teaching major from New Braunfels, joined Delete Blood Cancer DKMS’s bone marrow registry, she knew her chances of being a match to a leukemia patient were slim. This spring, Dowdy has just returned from undergoing a procedure, which could save someone’s life.
It was February when Dowdy first received the email telling her she was a potential match for someone with leukemia. After reading the email, she immediately thought back to when she, her boyfriend and another friend had all swabbed their cheeks the previous year at a donor drive that Blood Cancer DKMS had on campus.
“I just went to the swabbing event,” Dowdy said. “I would have never thought that out of all the people that have done it, that I’d be a match.”
Other than feeling astonished, Dowdy said she was overcome with a strong desire to be the donor the patient needed. She said she was on the verge of tears and was praying that if she was not a match, that God please provide the patient with someone else.
When it was determined that Dowdy was going to be the donor, preparations began for her donation. Instead of taking the peripheral blood stem cell donation method that 70 percent of donors take, Dowdy elected for a direct bone marrow donation where marrow would be extracted directly from her pelvis.
For Dowdy, donating was an easy decision, but it took some convincing for her parents to give their approval. Although they respected her decision, Dowdy said, her mother was opposed to her donating via the extraction method. It was only after learning about the experience of someone she knew, that Dowdy’s mother approved of her decision.
“We found out that a boss that we worked for last summer had a daughter who passed away from leukemia. It kind of showed her that this is the other side of donation,” Dowdy said.
After speaking with the organization’s coordinator and filling out the required paperwork, Dowdy traveled to Houston during spring break where she had a full physical examination and blood tests. Last Monday, Dowdy underwent her donation procedure, but sometime before her surgery, Dowdy received an encouraging phone call from alumni and Olympian Earl Young who, after his own battle with leukemia, started an organization to raise awareness for bone marrow registries.
“I told her how proud I was of her, knowing that she was going to do the extraction from the hip. I can understand people being fearful of that, but she overcame that and that takes a lot of courage,” Young said.
It was September 2011 when Young found out he had acute myeloid leukemia. He went to the doctor for what he thought was just a cough and sniffle, but by the end of the day, an oncologist told Young he had only three months to live. Immediately Young underwent chemotherapy and a few months later found a donor in Christine Waag. He has since been cancer free for nearly five years and believes what donors do for patients is similar to what God does for humanity.
“I think about this all the time,” Young said. “All my old cells were gone. I was totally vulnerable and she comes in with her strong, healthy T cells and gives me life. That is so much like what Christ does for us. He takes away the old and brings in the new.”
Young met Waag two years after her life saving donation helped win his battle with cancer. In a year, Dowdy will have the same opportunity with the patient her donation went to, but in the meantime, she would like her patient to know that she is grateful for the opportunity to serve them.
“I want them to know that I’m praying for them,” Dowdy said. “It’s easy for me to forget that in a couple weeks that I did this, but it’s not going to be easy for them to forget at all because this could save their life.”
To learn more about Delete Blood Cancer DKMS visit deletebloodcancer.org.
To learn more about Earl Young’s awareness organization, visit earlyoungsteam.com