Photos courtesy of Be the Match.
Hundreds of Long Beach residents, marrow donors and transplant patients demonstrated on Saturday, November 22 the importance of simply showing up for others. Be The Match Walk+Run is a fundraising event that helps patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma find a marrow donor and receive a life-saving transplant.
With a 5K, 1K and a Tot Trot, the Walk+Run is a family-friendly event for participants of all fitness levels. The Walk+Run event graced Shoreline Aquatic Park as part of a 2014 national series that included Walk+Runs in 17 cities across the country: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond, St. Louis, Sacramento, San Jose and Tampa.
Each year, more than 12,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with blood cancers for which a marrow transplant from an unrelated donor may be their best or only hope of a cure. This Walk+Run helped raise funds in support of marrow transplant research, helping patients with uninsured treatment costs and finding more volunteer marrow donors to add to the Be The Match Registry.
Thomas Yamamoto, a 22-year-old Newport Beach resident, became a donor just three months after signing up at USC. “There was an A3M (Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches) table taking cheek swabs to sign up,” he explained. “I was open to signing up because I have seen family members experience health issues… not being in a position to help was frustrating to me.”
Yamamoto, who was able to meet the patient who received the transplant at the A3M Gala, said, “I’m glad I was able to help. After hearing his side of the story I was truly humbled. I’m very happy for the patient and his family.”
Valerie Sun, a 32-year-old Huntington Beach resident, found out she needed a transplant in 1993 when she was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia at the age of 11. She waited for a transplant for seven years.
“The healing process has been very long and difficult, sometimes I would take 2 steps forward and then take 4 steps back. I have been fortunate that over the past several years I have continued to see improvements in my health and I am now off almost all of my medications,” Sun explained. “While I deal with some long term side effects for the transplant, I live a wonderful, extremely active life and I am very blessed to be alive and also give back as I can.”
Sun described the major difficulties and side effects of receiving the transplant, saying, “Major difficulties are the side effects and in the past, feeling like sometimes the challenges weren’t worth it. But most of the time I am happy I got a second chance at life and feel fortunate that someone gave me that chance (my donor).”
Sun will be celebrating her 33rd birthday in Thailand this year.
Join a community transplanting hope. Help patients with blood cancers take the next step toward a life-saving marrow transplant. For more information, to fundraise or volunteer, click here.