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A cotton swab could help save a life

By Tiffany Chen     3/6/12 6:00pm

At Rice, many of us are career-driven. We strive to become society's next engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs and musicians. Having this ambition is the reason we want to excel in our classes, sacrifice the occasional party to study for the GRE or MCAT, and apply for summer internships. Imagine, though, if all your dreams and aspirations were shattered because you were diagnosed with a fatal illness. Could you maintain the positive attitude to persevere after realizing that rounds of chemotherapy might not even kill half of the cancer cells in your body? Could you bear living out your remaining days in pain knowing that there is only a slight chance a perfect donor will be found? Many of us avoid such thoughts and think that, while unfortunate, such a tragedy will not happen to us. We continue on with our daily lives, worrying about our next exam or that problem set due tomorrow. I urge all members of the Rice community to briefly consider how fortunate we are that we can even consider having a future career and the opportunity to impact the lives of others. Putting that consideration into action, we can all easily sacrifice a few minutes to help out those who are struggling just to survive the next few months, and a quick swab of the mouth is all it takes.

From the University of California, San Diego, to The University of Texas, San Antonio, to Boston University, colleges and universities all across the nation are participating in the Helping Janet campaign. While studying international development at the University of California, Los Angeles, and dreaming of becoming a teacher, Janet Liang was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. While she had achieved full remission in 2010, her cancer returned in December 2011. Now, if she does not find a perfect donor match by June 2012, she may not be able to win her battle against leukemia. In her case, an Asian-American would be the most likely match, but sadly, only 7 percent of potential donors are currently registered.

Janet is only one of the thousands of people in the United States who need to find a match to have a second chance at life. Rice's upcoming Get Swabbed bone marrow registry drive is dedicated to her and all of the leukemia patients who live day by day in anticipation that there might be someone in the world who is their match. This is Rice's first bone marrow registry drive in over three years. One reason such drives have not been held more frequently is the widespread misconception that bone marrow donations are painful and take a long time to recover from. Hence, many students are hesitant to register as donors. In fact, 70 percent of the time, the procedure involves a quick, painless, non-surgical peripheral blood stem cell donation. Blood goes out one arm, into a machine that collects peripheral blood stem cells and back into your arm. Most people replenish 100 percent of their bone marrow within a week and suffer hardly any complications. The least we can do to help save the lives of Janet and other leukemia victims is to swab our cheeks to collect our DNA and join the bone marrow registry. A couple simple steps for us could lead to the full recovery of leukemia patients and the chance for them to fulfill their dreams.

Tiffany Chen is a Duncan College junior.

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