Saturday, July 31, 2010

Be the Match

I don't have cable or tv antennas, so I get most of my news from podcasts.  One of the ones I subscribe to is NPR's Story of the Day.  I listen to it while I get ready for work, and a few days ago I heard a particularly intriguing story about bone marrow donations and what happens to the people who don't have a readily available match.  In particular, non-whites.  The story cited that because African American people tend to have a particularly diverse ethnic makeup, it's often harder to find a donor if no direct relatives are a suitable match.  As such, the Black community is less likely to receive life-saving treatments for leukemia and other related diseases than Caucasians.

It gave me pause.  Cancer has affected more than its fair share of members of both sides of my family.  I am also an American of the African and Mexican variety, with dashes of Native American Indian and a pinch of European (Spanish, specifically) peppered in.  I have two living biological parents and a half brother.  But what if I developed leukemia, needed bone marrow, and none of those three people were a match?  And if they weren't, even in my vast family network, there might not be a match in there either.  You can have all the family members in the world and not find a donor match.  Tissue types are inherited, and you're more likely to match a member of your own race or ethnicity, which is why doctors start there.   When those options are exhausted, they turn to donor registries.

After listening to the story, I made a mental note to myself to look into it.  That evening I punched in "bone marrow registry" and Be The Match came up first in my search.

Swabbed up and ready to go!  Don't let the biohazard sticker scare you...
They can explain who they are and what they do much more thoroughly than I can, but basically, you can register online and they will send you a Buccal Swab Kit.  That's where you swab the inside of your cheek.  You mail it back.  Done.  Donations are encouraged to help with processing costs, so I gave some money.  (You don't have to, though.)  I received my kit yesterday and swabbed it up this morning.  It took less than 10 minutes.

I urge you to consider registering to become a bone marrow donor.  Should you be a match for somebody, advances in medicine have made marrow extraction a far less invasive and painful procedure than in days past.  Admittedly, this was a concern of mine, thanks to my perception from movies, books, and word of mouth.

In particular, I urge you to register if you are in any of the following ethnic groups because they are the most in need:

  • Black or African American
  • American Indian
  • Asian, including South Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Multiple race

I could go into speculations about why these ethnic groups are so lacking in available donors compared to Caucasian people (distrust of "the man", "the system", etc.), but really, that's unimportant.  What is important is that this is fast, easy, and has the potential to save a life.  Period.

For more information, the link to the National Marrow Donor Program is or you can call 1 (800) 654-1247.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Running Around

I have three journals.  One paper, one on LiveJournal, and this here Blogger.  It gets a little tough to keep all three in active rotation, okay?

I realize I'm being defensive for nothing, for I've also had a Facebook page for over five years, so it's not like I've been totally off the grid in any way.

What have I been up to since April?  Well, I'm still "shooting the cat", as I like to refer to Amelia's insulin doses.  The good news is that in my inexpert opinion, she's regulated on these 3ccs of Lantus because she no longer drinks like a frat boy and pees like a race horse.  Her food generally gets her through the day with a few bites to spare the next morning, and overall she seems content.  I will be taking a second mini-vacation this summer for a few days when I go up to Anaheim, so I will use that as an opportunity to board her at the vet and ask them to run tests to see how well she's really doing.  Perhaps she can even go off of the insulin soon--who knows!

This spring into early summer I was mostly occupied with the usual--work and dancing, but also getting to know my city again with the likes of the guy I like to call "Loophole".  He came over from Germany to intern with my company for five months, and we became fast friends who liked to get out and about in Southern California in one of our two Camrys.  A byproduct of our friendship came a renewed interest in something I attempted 3 years ago: running.  Ralph--that's his real name--likes to run and can do 6 miles at a go, leaving me in the frustrated dust.  We had started working out together once a week in the company gym this spring and made an unofficial pact:  he would start working in more strength training and I would try to run.

As far as I know, he's not back in Germany doing Romanian dead-lifts these days (which would be funny because, actually, he was born in Romania), so I think I've held up my end of the bargain more because today I finished my second almost-three-mile-run outdoors!  Haha.  I started slowly in April back in the old gym with him.  He'd get a head start on the treadmill while I worked the free weights and then eventually drag myself over to the second machine to run.  I gradually worked myself through running a mile straight before walking out the rest of my pre-set time, which eventually became two miles of straight running, and only once to date has been three.  The 3-miler happened during a short trip to Vegas about a month ago.  I was using the Mirage gym and I was able to distract myself to the point of running about 2.83 before peeking under the towel, realizing how far I had gone, and finishing out a 5k's worth.

I had not been able to repeat that performance back in my regular gym since, which pissed me off so badly that Monday I decided to do what I had intended to get into all along: the outdoor run.  After work I picked a route, put in the earbuds, and took off.  It was a bit overcast and it's been unseasonably chilly for July in San Diego, but I found myself actually enjoying the ramble down the business park back roads.  I enjoyed it until I got to the slow grade back uphill, which by that point felt like I had been skewered with that thing you use to hold down a big, juicy steak while you slice it.  Getting to the top, though, was such an endorphin release.  All in all it was about 2.6 miles that passed much more easily than any stint on a treadmill.  I was on to something.

Today I went on a suicide run.  I call it suicide because you get lured into a false sense of security early on by going down a long hill and then about a mile into it, you climb up into an unforgiving, long, slow, windy ascent before making it back up to the starting point.  It's a pretty tough road for anyone, especially the likes of me who has been on a flat treadmill for the last 3+ months.  I just have to suck it up, though, because San Diego is full of hills.  Not quite San Francisco-grade, but enough to make you feel the burn!

I have to stand back and marvel at it all because for most of my life I've despised running and was secretly envious of anyone who didn't.  However, I was encouraged to give it a go and I really like having this as a way to challenge and set goals for myself.   I know people who have gotten themselves into great shape by running and I hope to join their ranks.

Whenever I would climb off the treadmill heaving and red-faced, Ralph would say to me, "Do you feel good?"

Yes. Yes I do.