Jenny Wayne’s introduction to blood cancer came about 15 years ago when her friend informed her that her 10 year-old daughter, Kenna, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Shortly following that she became a staff member at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's North Carolina chapter. But she could never have predicted that she would one day become a bone marrow donor, and ultimately save a blood cancer patient’s life.
Wayne’s experience with blood cancer didn’t end with Kenna. In her 12 years with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), she’s had countless personal connections; including losing an uncle to myeloma and learning her father-in-law had lymphoma (he is winning his battle). When a bone marrow donor center representative came to her office to speak to the team about organ donors, she jumped at the opportunity to get a swab done.
Last February, Wayne got the call that she was the perfect match for an older gentleman (who she now considers a kin brother) who was in need of a bone marrow transplant. Knowing she would be saving her recipient’s life, she decided to go through with it.
Wayne provided some insight on the ups and downs of her remarkable journey.
What was your reaction when you learned you were a match and how did you decide whether or not to go forward?
I was driving when I got the call, so I immediately pulled over into a parking lot. After hearing the words, “you are a match,” I had no hesitation, and I was ready to go forward. I was filled with excitement, and my father-in-law’s journey instantly came to mind. The rep suggested I speak with my family first, so after discussing with my husband, I signed the consent form.
What was the experience like?
The testing and preparation process went smoothly. I was flown to Georgetown in DC to have all the preliminary tests completed and then my husband and I were flown back the following week for the actual surgery. They showed me a video of exactly what the procedure would entail. On the day of surgery, I was given anesthesia, and four hours later I woke up -- feeling sore. To extract the marrow, they literally screwed two long hollow needles into my pelvis bone joints. They had to take the maximum amount of marrow from me and 30 percent of my blood. They had me stay two nights in observation at the hospital and then two additional nights at the attached hotel, but it only took a few weeks to get back to normal routine.
What did you know about your recipient before going forward with the surgery, and when do you get to meet him?
I wasn’t given any information about my recipient other than his age. He was an older gentleman, 75 years old, so it was important that they got as much as they could to be of the most benefit to him. . The donor and I have exchanged cards, and I was given an update on his sixth month that he is now in remission. He is doing well. We are not able to meet until a year has passed (next February!!!)
What advice do you have for others who are considering becoming a donor?
DO IT! What an amazing and fairly non-invasive way to give life to someone in need. The mild discomfort you may experience is well worth the difference you are making, allowing the recipient more time with their family and to make a difference in this world themselves!
I consider it an honor and a blessing that I was a perfect match for this patient. I would absolutely do it again given the opportunity. I pray that my recipient continues to do well and that we will get to meet and hug necks in the very near future – He is the Hero in all of this!
To learn more about being a donor or to join a registry, visit Be The Match.
For any questions about transplantation or other topics related to a blood cancer, call LLS's Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572 or learn more about support programs.