For The Register-Herald
OAK HILL —
Sometimes it takes celebrity status to move people to action. But other times, status is irrelevant.
When “Good Morning America” co-host and anchor Robin Roberts shared her battle against myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and charged viewers to support bone marrow donation, numbers at bethematch.org skyrocketed.
Locally, two young women with cancer hope to have the same sort of effect on bethematch.org numbers. But instead of celebrity status, they’re counting on the support of a generous and giving community.
Chelsey Long and Jamie Massey’s Donorama Day is scheduled April 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Oak Hill Gospel Tabernacle on Oyler Avenue.
During her ongoing battle against desmoplastic small round cell tumor, which was diagnosed in July 2011, Chelsey has learned about the power of positive thinking, prayer and community. T-shirts, fundraisers and numerous offers to help her have been continual. Chelsey is a 2011 graduate of Oak Hill High School.
Jamie Massey, an OHHS junior, is not new to the battle against cancer. Her mom, Terri Lynne Massey, died on Oct. 29, 2009, at age 39 after a four-year battle against breast cancer. Her family and community reacted with Terri’s Tribute, an organization which raises college scholarship money for her, her siblings and other kids who have lost a parent to breast cancer. They raise awareness about breast cancer with the symbolic world’s longest pink scarf.
Jamie’s diagnosis of leukemia, unrelated to her mother’s breast cancer, knocked the wind out of her and her family. Once again, her family, friends and community rallied with a fundraising spaghetti dinner and other acts of kindness.
Now the two cancer-fighting women have united forces for the April 27 event to bump up the bone marrow donation numbers in southern West Virginia.
“We don’t know what either of us may need in the future,” said Chelsey. “But whether we need a bone marrow transplant or not, we’ve met many other young people who may.”
In treatment at Women and Children’s Hospital in Charleston, the pair were taken aback by the kids they’ve met, most of whom are years younger than either of them.
“We can raise money for teddy bears or make blankets,” said Jamie, “but we need to do something to affect their health.”
That something is bringing Be The Match to Oak Hill along with a Red Cross Bloodmobile so that people may give blood and/or register to become a bone marrow donor.
“It’s as easy as swabbing your cheek with a Q-tip,” said Jamie, “and that is no big deal compared to what we’ve gone through with treatments and needles and chemo.”
Potential donors ages 18-44 register free with a simple cheek swab, although a blood sample might be requested. More than 90 percent of matches are from this age group. Donors who are older than 44 must register online at bethematch.org.
Be The Match also will collect donations to help offset costs for transplants. A bone marrow transplant might cost $100,000.
“We would love to have sponsors offset the costs for people who are older than 44,” said Chelsey, “but this event is more about awareness than about money.
“We want the community to come out — our family and friends, our teachers and coaches, our church families and our health care providers, and others to see how easy it is to give life to someone who may not live without their donation of bone marrow,” said Chelsey.
Jamie added, “And blood transfusions kept my mom here with us longer, so don’t forget about how important it is to give blood.”
There is a particular need for donors who are black, Latin, Hispanic and Asian, according to Be The Match.
“I hope we can bump up donations overall,” said Chelsey, “but I am certain we can affect the numbers in these categories.”
For more information, visit bethematch.org. Appointments are required for blood donations. Call 304-663-2410.
“We’re counting on our generous community to make a huge difference in bone marrow donation numbers,” said Chelsey.
“You never know when you might be the person in need,” said Jamie.
Oak Hill Gospel Tabernacle can be accessed from the Oyler Avenue exit off U.S. 19, turning left if you’ve traveled south, right if you’ve traveled north.