Watching a YouTube video about a young woman in need of a bone-marrow transplant, Christine Pechera finds it hard not to turn away. “My heart breaks for that poor girl,” she says.
“But then I remember ... that girl was me.”
Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002, Christine underwent months of unsuccessful chemotherapy and radiation treatments, followed by an autologous transplant of her own stem cells. When she suffered a relapse in 2005, a bone-marrow transplant (BMT) using donor cells was her only hope.
Christine is of Filipino ancestry, and no matching donors were found in the national marrow donor registry. Friends helped her produce a YouTube video about her need for a matching donor, and her story was picked up on local, national, and ultimately international media.
|BMT patient Christine Pechera (left) meets her anonymous marrow donor, Kent Wong (right), at City of Hope. With them is BMT program director Stephen Forman, MD.|
The emotional power of Christine’s need was magnified by her family’s tragic history. When she was 15, Christine herself donated bone marrow so her younger brother Francis Rex could receive a BMT in his unsuccessful battle against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Just months before his death, their sister Jocelyn was also diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She survived the disease, but then Christine was diagnosed in 2002.
Following the media coverage, Christine’s matching donor was finally found in Hong Kong: a 37-year old man who had never heard of Christine, but signed up as a potential donor because of his wife’s successful battle with leukemia.
Christine received her BMT at City of Hope in 2006, and today is free of cancer. Last April, she met her donor for the first time at City of Hope’s annual BMT Reunion.
“His gift has meant my life,” she says. “It is literally his blood running in my veins, his life force keeping me alive. He was the one person in the world who was my match. If he had not come forward, I wouldn’t be here.”
Today, Christine donates much of her time to support cancer research and care and help cancer patients. You can catch up with her at www.savechristine.com.
All you need to do to sign up as a potential marrow donor at City of Hope is fill out a form and have the inside of your cheek swabbed: you don’t even have to give blood. It’s easy and painless, but you could be the one person in the world someone like Christine is hoping to find.
For more details, go to www.cityofhope.org, click on “Patient Care,” and follow the link to the Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center. It’s one more way you help save lives through your generosity to City of Hope.