By Alyssa Berkovitz
Several years ago, my mom was invited to speak at a cancer walk. I listened with admiration as she said, "Our ovarian cancer diagnosis and recurrences can serve as wake-up calls to examine our lives and legacies. How do we want to be remembered? What else do we seek to achieve?"
"It's no longer acceptable to put our lives on hold," she continued. "There's no time for excuses. Live your life with meaning, feeling grateful that you were given this gift of time."
In just four years, my mom had endured melanoma, breast cancer and three relapses of ovarian cancer.
To help prolong her remission, she made the incredibly brave decision to travel to Texas for a stem cell transplant at MD Anderson.
Considering how fantastic the doctors were and knowing how slim the chances were for anything to go severely wrong, we were optimistic.
Desperate for platelet donors
But after the transplant, her body couldn't produce a sufficient amount of platelets (the cells that keep blood thick). Even worse, there was a platelet shortage and her body was only tolerating specific blood matches.
At this point, we became desperate for donors.
In the middle of the night, my sister woke me and said that we were flying to Texas in a few hours to see if we were eligible to donate platelets for our mom. I was confused since my 11th grade final exams were that morning, but I still didn't think the situation would be too severe.
Before we arrived, my mom's blood had become so thin from lack of platelets that she had hemorrhaged. Ultimately, this event led to three months in the ICU with recurring sepsis and multiple organ failure.
I was donating platelets every few days and many strangers were coming to donate as well. This simple gesture is something I will never forget because those who helped donate gave my mom the gift of time.
Sadly, her body never regenerated platelets on its own, and my mom lost her battle.
Organizing blood drives in my mother's memory
After seeing how drastic the consequences can be when someone can't get the blood he or she needs, I felt compelled to do something.
A few months after my mom passed away in December 2008, I organized a blood drive in her name. It was heartwarming to see how many people came out to donate, so I continued to run the blood drives.
Last week, at my fifth drive, we finally collected enough blood to save over 500 lives. To honor this milestone, I made a short video where I asked some of the donors why they donated. To say that I've been blown away by the messages in the video is an understatement.
I love that my mom's memory is kept alive in a way that can help other people. She will always be my superhero - she was the most courageous and kind-hearted person I will ever know.
I strive to be just like her and exemplify the person that she was, and I feel that I can do that best when I am helping other people and running blood drives.
Call or visit the MD Anderson Blood Bank to find out where you can donate blood in the Houston area: (713) 792-7777.