It’s Time for a BIG Announcement
Not that kind of announcement…sorry to disappoint you!
April 20, 2020, I will be toeing the line in Hopkinton, MA for the start of the Boston Marathon! Why do you ask? Let me tell you a story…
January 7, 2020 is a big day. For me, it is the 10 year anniversary of my bone marrow donation to Owen. For Owen, it is the 10 year anniversary of his bone marrow transplant to treat JMML (Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia). 10 years, can you believe it?! If you asked me 10 years ago what I would expect to come from my donation it would have been a lot of “I hope…” and “I wish…” Never would I have imagined the relationships I gained and experiences I had. I’m sure Owen and his family had hoped they would finally get to hear the words “cancer free.”
Ten years is the reason I want to celebrate! Most people might decide to have a party, or remember the day quietly with family and friends, but I want to do something bigger; I want to give back. And what would be a better way than to raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) with Team in Training (TNT) to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients like Owen, all while training to run my dream marathon…the Boston Marathon! I want to help make sure other pediatric blood cancer patients have the hope and resources to get better, just as Owen did. And just like Owen had his family and a HUGE support system in their town, it going to take more than just me to accomplish this goal and that’s why I’m asking you to help!
Donations to LLS help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer, or the LLS Children’s Initiative, a collaborative approach to change how pediatric blood cancers are treated. In Minnesota alone, just over $9 million was given by the LLS to the University of MN and Mayo Clinic to help support research on all types of blood cancers and $1.7 million was given to MN blood cancer patients in 2018 to help them fight their disease. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies or financial assistance. Check out my TNT LLS page here – https://pages.lls.org/tnt/mn/boston20/lmoffett
So why LLS and TNT? Let’s get to the juicy stuff.
Leukemia has touched my life in many ways over the years. My first encounter with leukemia happened when I was 5 when one of my cousins was diagnosed with leukemia and we went as a family to the Baseball Hall of Fame just days before he passed away. In 2002, while in high school, my family learned my Grandma was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and unfortunately passed away a year after her diagnosis. Then in 2008 I watched a very close friend, Nikki, battle leukemia. It’s because of her that I have an even closer connection to leukemia. I worked with Nikki’s husband, Marc, and quickly got to know them both. In 2008 Marc and Nikki were blessed with their daughter Michaela, but sadly a short 3 months later Nikki was diagnosed with leukemia. She went through chemo and radiation but ultimately still needed a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, no one in her family was a match and she would need to find an unrelated donor. It was hard for me to watch such a wonderful person go through something so terrible. But that’s when I first learned about Be the Match. In March 2009, I signed up on the registry in honor of Nikki. Fortunately, Nikki was able to find an unrelated donor, began to recover and was soon doing well enough to be sent home. Sadly, she lost her battle with leukemia later in 2009 – she was only 30 and their daughter Michaela was only 9 months old.
I do not remember anyone telling me the odds of being called as a bone marrow donor, but I did know it could be years if I was ever called at all. I was surprised when I got a call from Be the Match 3 months later saying I was a potential match for a 3 year old boy with leukemia; and the person on the other end of the phone asked THE important question, was I willing to be his bone marrow donor? I didn’t have to think twice, I replied with a resounding yes. There was no doubt in my mind, I had a feeling that I was meant to help this little boy.
Everything moved quickly after that phone call. I had an initial appointment that evening to learn more about the donation process, the type of leukemia he was fighting and to sign some forms. Marc was kind enough to come with me to my appointment and give his support. My heart dropped when I was told that this little boy only had a 50% chance of surviving WITH a bone marrow transplant. For the boy I matched, his doctors requested actual bone marrow, so I was scheduled for surgery. Truth be told, I was scared, this was going to be my first surgery EVER. I just kept reminding myself of why I was doing this and how the little boy must be feeling, and it helped me get through it. I will never forget my dad telling me that my donation was “the best Christmas present I would ever give.”
January 7, 2010 was the day of my surgery, 9 months after I signed up to be a donor, and 3 months after Nikki passed away. My mom flew in to be with me and stick around to make sure I was ok. The entire procedure took an hour and they harvested about a soda can full of bone marrow. I stayed in the hospital for the day, long enough to watch a few movies and enjoy some delicious hospital food and was discharged that evening.
Once I was home, I started thinking about the little boy wondering how he was doing. Rules dictated that I had to wait a WHOLE year before I could find out who he was. I got some updates here and there about how he was doing, but all anonymous. I prayed for him every day, a gut feeling told me he was doing well, recovering, and playing outside. For me, my life continued just as it did before my donation.
When January 7, 2011 came around, I was hoping I would hear something about that little boy and my wish was granted that evening; I received an email from his parents! His name was Owen and because of me he was now 4 and doing well! His family was coming to Minneapolis for a checkup and wanted to meet. I was touched and overjoyed! His parents sent me a link to a blog they were keeping, and I stayed up very late reading all about Owen’s journey. I learned how he had been diagnosed, the trips to different hospitals around the country to find the right place for his treatment, his short fight with graft vs. host disease, and all of his family and friends that were supporting him in his hometown of Omaha.
We met a week later in downtown Minneapolis. Mark and Heather, Owen’s parents, greeted me with big hugs and tears. Owen stopped by with a big grin, just long enough to say hi, since he was busy playing with his sister and brother. Surprisingly, I learned Owen and I had a lot in common. My donation and his transplant were on the same day, in the same hospital, just 1 floor apart. Along with sharing marrow we also share the same birthday.
I have been lucky to get to know Owen and his entire family. They are a kind and welcoming family, always taking the time to have fun. We keep in touch regularly; Owen’s parents were readers in our wedding and their whole family flew out to be with Jason and I on our special day. I am happy to say, Owen is 13, an amazing soccer player, loves the Minnesota Vikings, and best of all, Owen has no signs of cancer! What started off as my way of honoring a friend, turned into becoming part of another family and a lifelong friendship.
Owen and his family are my why for taking on another marathon and working to raise funds and awareness for LLS with TNT. I’d like to ask you to please make a donation in support of my efforts with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers. I promise to keep you updated on my training journey, even through the middle of a Minne-snow-ta winter, and I cannot wait to celebrate this 10 year anniversary with all of you when I cross the finish line in April 2020.
P.S. To check out my TNT page visit- https://pages.lls.org/tnt/mn/boston20/lmoffett
To donate please visit- https://donate.lls.org/tnt/donate?programGroupName=TNT&fundraiserPageID=3763466&participantFirstName=Laura&participantLastName=Moffett&displayName=Laura%20Moffett&fundraiserPageURL=https%3A%2F%2Fpages.lls.org%2Ftnt%2Fmn%2Fboston20%2Flmoffett