Over time I'll probably have a lot to say here about cancer, given my choice of oncology as a career path. But before getting to anything else, I just wanted to publish a little plea: sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry. It's a simple thing to do, and it really can give you the opportunity to save someone's life. Diseases like leukemia and multiple myeloma can be treated with chemotherapy and other medications to prolong life and control symptoms, but typically the only long-term cure is a transfusion of blood stem cells from another person. These cells not only produce new blood cells (i.e. platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells), but can also fight the underlying blood disease through a weird process known as graft vs. tumor effect, wiping out any malignant cells that remain after chemotherapy. Sometimes the donated cells can also damage normal tissues and organs in the recipient, which is known as graft vs. host disease. But already, I can tell my little talk here is getting overly long and technical, and people are skipping back to my piece on the #1 rock song of all time, so let me simplify things:
YOUR STEM CELLS CAN CURE SOMEONE'S LEUKEMIA. And donating them is not much more complicated than donating blood. You can read more about it, in layman's terms, at the National Marrow Donor Program site.
I'm kind of embarrassed to say that even after meeting and caring for people with leukemia and other blood illnesses during my residency, I didn't sign up for the donor registry until I developed a personal connection to someone who needed stem cells. It's, like, a three-degree connection: my friend's wife's brother. But if you too had an opportunity to meet Steve, you'd soon learn that he's a great guy, and you'd be more than willing to do this simple thing to help him. (Well, that is, your chances of being a donor match for Steve per se, or anyone outside your family, are quite small. Almost like hitting the lottery. But you know what I mean.)
Check out Steve's blog! There's a link to it right over there, on the right.
And FYI, signing up for the registry costs about $50. Just do it! Damn cheapskates!