Why I donate blood for cancer patients to honor my late wife
I’ve been a regular blood donor since 1981. But it wasn’t until my wife, Kelly, was diagnosed with stage IV anal cancer in 2014 that blood donation became personal.
As a cancer caregiver, you learn that “you” becomes “we.” Following Kelly’s diagnosis, I set everything in my life aside. I became an expert in her type of cancer and the treatments and procedures.
After she completed chemotherapy and radiation therapy near our home in California, Kelly’s blood platelet count was severely depleted. She received blood transfusions regularly, and I saw firsthand how critically important blood donations are to cancer patients. The experience reinforced my motivation to donate.
Following Kelly’s treatment, we started looking for clinical trials that she might qualify for. That’s when we found MD Anderson. Kelly enrolled in a clinical trial in late spring 2015, and we flew back and forth to MD Anderson every two weeks for an immunotherapy infusion.
Kelly had an incredibly strong response to the clinical trial. But in March 2016, two and a half months after her cancer returned in an aggressive way, Kelly passed away.
After her passing, I challenged friends and family to donate blood in Kelly’s honor. I set a goal to replace what she used during treatment by tenfold. We met and surpassed that goal. Looking back, it was a very therapeutic experience during my grief.
MD Anderson Blood Bank is my first stop in Houston
It’s been four and a half years since Kelly died, but I donate blood at MD Anderson when I travel from my home in Newport Beach to Houston to visit my girlfriend, Kim. Kim was an old friend whom I reconnected with when I traveled to Houston for Kelly’s infusions. She was also caring for a family member being treated at MD Anderson, so we bonded over the ins and outs of being caregivers.
Now, I know everyone at the MD Anderson Blood Bank. When I’m in town, I stop by to donate whole blood or platelets, depending on what I am eligible to give and what is most needed at the time. It’s nice to see familiar faces and continue to give back to MD Anderson in my own way.
I donate blood today to honor Kelly’s memory and for everyone else in my life who has been touched by cancer. When your loved one needs a blood product, you feel immense appreciation that someone took the time to donate to a faceless stranger.
COVID-19 precautions make me feel safe at MD Anderson Blood Bank
I have continued to donate during the COVID-19 pandemic and feel extremely comfortable doing so. MD Anderson Blood Bank takes every precaution to create a safe environment for donors. To help keep donors safe throughout the blood donation process, MD Anderson is taking additional COVID-19 safety measures, including screening, temperature checks, and asking everyone on their campuses to wear medical-grade face masks. I truly believe it’s one of the safest places you can visit right now.
Many people are looking for new, socially distanced traditions to create with their families this year. I encourage anyone who can to consider donating blood or platelets at MD Anderson Blood Bank.
I still get emotional sometimes when I think about how grateful I am for the donations that Kelly received. It’s an incredible feeling to know that when you need it, it’s there. I always like to think about the person who decided to go sit in a chair and donate blood for someone they will never know. It’s difficult to explain how much that generosity means to you until you need it.