This summer, when Tess Lund was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, notes from people back home covered every inch of her hospital room walls. She and her husband Nick grew up in Chehalis and are stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas for Nick’s job as an Army Ranger.
“We've been really fortunate and kind of blown away by the friends and family and community that's stepped up for her,” said Lund’s sister Josie Cummings. “There’s a lot of people who are like, ‘what can we do? What can we do to help?’”
Before now, the Cummings family simply asked those people to pray. But this Saturday, there is a potentially life-saving action folks can take for Lund and others in her situation: donate blood stem cells derived from bone marrow. Lund will likely need a bone marrow transplant in the coming months and right now, her closest match lives in Europe.
On Oct. 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church 21990 Jackson Highway, Chehalis, a bone marrow donor drive event will be held in honor of Lund, to get more people on the “Be The Match” registry as potential donors.
It sounds like a big ask, Cummings said, but 80% of bone marrow donations are akin to giving plasma, and the other 20% require an hour-long surgical procedure with a few days recovery.
Those attending Saturday’s Be The Match event will have the inside of their cheeks swabbed, register for the list and commit to the possibility of one day being a donor. To register, people must be ages 18 to 40, because studies show stem cells from younger people are more effective in transplants.
“If people are out of that (age range), we just tell them they're not too old, they're just overqualified,” Cummings said.
Only about one in every 430 registered are called on to donate. Be The Match also works to make donation as easy as possible by covering costs of meals, lodging, travel, child care and pet care for the donor.
According to the Be The Match website, 70% of patients in need of a transplant don’t have a match in their family. Cummings and Lund’s two other siblings were tested as possible donors, but they were each only about 50% matches. Her potential European donor is above a 90% match, but Lund’s doctors would like to find at least one other match.
The fight against leukemia is an arduous one. After going through chemotherapy in Kansas, Lund is now receiving care at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. If she does receive the bone marrow transplant, she will have to be isolated with only one caregiver for 100 days to protect her immune system while recovering.
“The thing that we've learned with this whole process and treatment is that there's no certainty or answers really,” Cummings said. “So, If I were ever to be selected to give my own marrow, a day or a couple of days out of my life to be able to give someone else a second chance at theirs is a pretty amazing opportunity.”
For questions about Saturday’s drive, call or text Cummings at 360-972-9825. Visit BeTheMatch.org for more information. Anyone unable to attend but willing to register can text “gettessted” to 61474.
Donating blood could also help patients with leukemia. To do so, visit schedule.bloodworksnw.org.