This past Christmas is one Hillsides Chief Advancement Officer Nancy Garni will never forget. As she was unwrapping presents with her family, her doctor called to tell her that a routine blood test had come back abnormal, and she needed to go to the emergency room immediately for another test to rule out a lab mistake. On New Year’s Eve, Garni learned that the original test results were not an error. Her diagnosis: leukemia.
The news caught Garni by complete surprise. “I had been feeling tired, but wrote it off as due to the holidays and working long hours,” she said. “I was completely asymptomatic.”
Within 10 days, Garni underwent her first round of chemotherapy at City of Hope hospital in Duarte, CA. Since then, she’s undergone two more rounds of treatment, with a fourth scheduled. Her last four months have been a blur of extended hospital stays, coping with the difficult effects of the chemotherapy, and limiting her activities to avoid compromising her fragile immune system.
For the best prognosis, Garni needs a stem cell transplant. This is a procedure where faulty stem cells are replaced with healthy ones, which helps stimulate new bone marrow growth and restores the immune system.
So far, doctors have been unable to find a perfect stem cell match for Garni, but one is needed to give her the best chance for a complete recovery. As the result of the initiative of one of Hillsides former board members, Mark Mertens, Hillsides has created #TeamNancy, an effort to identify a stem cell donor for Garni. Hillsides has teamed up with the City of Hope and Be The Match, which manages a world-wide registry, to conduct a donor drive for Garni from 12: 00 noon – 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at Hillsides Support Services, 815 Colorado Blvd., Suite 300, Los Angeles, CA 90041.
“We invite all of Nancy’s friends, supporters, and co-workers to participate in the drive. There’s nothing all of us wouldn’t do to help her get through this ordeal, and becoming a donor is the best way to help,” said Hillsides chief executive officer, Joseph M. Costa. “The procedure is incredibly simple – with a quick swab of the cheek, you will be added to the registry as a potential donor.”
To participate in the drive, donors must be between the ages of 18 – 44. Participants do not need to pre-register; they can just show up the day of the drive. For those who can’t attend the drive, they can register online to order a swab kit: http://join.bethematch.org/teamnancy
Those who are not able to be a donor can still contribute by making a monetary donation to offset the cost of each swab by visiting www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/TeamNancyG.
By participating, donors are added to the registry as a potential donor not just for Garni but for other cancer patients in need of a transplant, which brings Garni joy.
“I want others to benefit equally from these efforts,” she said. “Worldwide, only one percent of the population has registered. People simply don’t know the magnitude of the way they could help by simply registering. It is so simple to save someone else’s life.”
Garni is dedicated to spreading the message of the need for stem cell donors, a mission that she finds healing. “It keeps me focused on hope, rather than on the reality of my disease,” she said.
Hillsides is a premier provider dedicated to improving the overall well-being and functioning of vulnerable children, youth, and families. To learn more about #TeamNancy or Hillsides, please visit www.hillsides.org. For more specific information on the drive, please contact Marisol Barrios at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-543-288, ext. 128. For more information on becoming a donor, please visit www.BeTheMatch.org.