“Does it hurt?” is usually the first thing that people want to know when they ask me about bone marrow donation. My answer is always the same – “not really”. I’ve experienced more pain in the dental chair. Any discomfort felt during the donation was overpowered by the anticipation and hope that that small bag of marrow might save someone’s life. Looking at it that way, it felt good!
I went into the National Marrow Registry (now the Be the Match registry) my senior year at Davidson College shortly after Project Life began its initial drive on campus. I asked myself when I considered getting typed on the marrow registry, “When in my lifetime will I have the chance to save someone’s life?” Maybe never again. Here was the chance. It was a unique opportunity to serve unlike any other I’d experienced during college. Project Life participants were getting typed not to help someone they knew, but someone they didn’t. Helping with the hopeful gift of life.
I’ve been asked if I was scared, nervous, or afraid once I got the call a year later that I’d been matched with someone in need of bone marrow. I didn’t feel any of those things. I felt lucky, fortunate, honored, blessed. Those were my feelings. Most of the other donors I’ve spoken with in the years since have all said the same thing. To know that a cancer patient looking at difficult options for dealing with their illness, now has a ray of hope because of you is a wonderful feeling!
The patient who needed me back then was a seven month old baby. Because of Project Life and all that followed that initial drive at Davidson, he is a healthy, strong 17 year old today. That feels good.
In November 2010, many of the leaders, donors, recipients, and supporters of Project Life during her 20-year history gathered together at Davidson College for a celebration of a great journey. This video includes interviews from a 1995 TV program created by channel WCNC in Charlotte, along with updated reflections and interviews from other participants within the Project Life Movement.
To watch part two, please click here.
In the spring of 2004 — and as Davidson College prepared to celebrate the 15th annual Project Life donor recruitment drive — Davidson alumna and current author, Rosie Molinary, wrote a beautiful piece about the “community of dreamers” who’d help lead the movement through the earliest years. As she vividly describes it in her article: “While there is not a donor for every patient, nor does every donation succeed, Project Life is about increasing those odds every year. It is about how patients are able to look cancer in the face and bully it with courage and opportunity.”
In 1989, a group of students at Davidson College approached President John Kuykendall and asked for his support in connecting the school to the cause of identifying potential donors for the national registry. On March 13, 1990, Davidson College held its inaugural Project Life bone marrow donor recruitment drive. Close to 500 students, staff, and faculty stepped forward to join the Project Life movement and an incredible, 20-year story unfolded.
To read a letter from Dr. Kuykendall, please click here.
Jack’s Mannequin is an American rock band formed in 2004, originally hailing from Orange County, California. The band began as a side project of Andrew McMahon , the frontman for Something Corporate, and is composed of guitarist Bobby Anderson, newest member (as of 10/29/2010) bassist Mikey “The Kid” Wagner, and drummer Jay McMillan.
In June 2005, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, just months before the release of Jack’s Mannequin’s debut studio album. They released the album, Everything in Transit , in August 2005. The album peaked at number 37 on the Billboard 200. McMahon made a full recovery and the band returned to touring. They released The Glass Passenger after a series of delays in 2008. It sold 49,000 copies in its first week and peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200. ”The Resolution” was released as the first single and charted at number 27 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks
If the experience of a bone marrow transplant had an accompanying anthem, I’d argue that “Caves” by Jack’s Mannequin might be the first and best candidate for it. Here’s a bit of the lyrics:
Somewhere in between
And living a dream.
Just clicking machines
In the quiet of compazine.
The walls caved in on me.
And she sings
My bird dressed in white.
And she stings
My arm in the night.
I lay still
Still I’m ready to fight.
Have my lungs
But you can’t take my sight.
The walls caved in
And out here
I watch the sun circle the earth
The marrows collide in rebirth
In God’s glory praise
The spirit calls out from the caves.
The walls fell and there I lay