Robin Roberts Anniversary a Call to Join the Marrow Registry

Perhaps you watched "Good Morning America" today, or you already know that host Robin Roberts celebrates her one-year hematopoietic stem cell transplant anniversary today.

One Year Ago

On Sept. 20, 2012, Roberts underwent an allogeneic stem cell transplantation to treat myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a term which actually describes a number of blood disorders. Make no mistake: MDS is a diagnosis of cancer. It's a rare disease, with estimates putting the number of annual diagnoses in the United States somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000.

Roberts was fortunate in that her sister was a good donor match.

Most people aren't nearly so fortunate or lucky.

Finding a Match

Every year more than 12,000 people in the United States will require a bone marrow or peripheral stem cell transplant. For many of them, it is their last hope of surviving lymphoma or leukemia or another blood disease.

About 70 percent of them will not be as lucky as Robin Roberts, and they will not find a related matching donor. Those patients rely on the Be The Match Registry to find a stranger to save their lives.

That stranger can be you. But you need to join the registry. It involves answering a health questionnaire, and then receiving a little kit in the mail. Follow the instructions in the kit - which is little more than swabbing the inside of your cheek with a couple of long Q-tips - and pop it back in the mail, at no cost to you.

At some point in the future, you may learn that you are a good candidate to save the life of another person simply by undergoing a bone marrow draw or having your blood harvested for peripheral stem cells.

Of course it's a little more involved than that, but we're talking about the opportunity to save a life. Every year, people of all ages who need just such a donor never find a match and die of their disease.

Learn More

For more information about joining the registry, visit the FAQ page for the National Marrow Donor Program at BeTheMatch.org. They also offer an FAQ page on donations and the donation process as well, which you can read about here.

Bone marrow is regarded as an organ of the immune system, and is no less an organ than the kidney or the liver. Donating bone marrow is donating an organ - without having to undergo major surgery yourself, and without giving up anything your own body won't very quickly regenerate.

I joined the registry several years ago. I urge those who are able to do the same.

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