Suzanne Shapiro was putting on her necklace to go to services at her synagogue when she noticed a lump on her neck.
She called her doctor.
“He took one look at it and said ‘We’re going to do a biopsy,’ ” she said. “Ten days later, I began treatment for lymphoma. After chemo, they told me my best chances for survival were a transplant.”
She had her first bone marrow transplant six years ago and a second in August 2010. It was then that Shapiro envisioned doing something to raise awareness about the need for bone marrow donors.
This Sunday, on the weekend between the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, her synagogue – Congregation Children of Israel – will hold a Be The Match bone marrow registry drive.
The timing is intentional.
“Lots of people are here on Rosh Hashanah,” Rabbi Robert Klensin said. “Those are days we’re supposed to look at our lives, what we’re doing with our lives and how we can help other people.”
Thousands of patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases depend on the registry to find a match that could save their lives.
The registry is open to people between ages 18 and 60 who meet certain health guidelines. Donors from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds are especially needed.
“We want to reach out to the whole community at large and get many people to come by, have their cheeks swabbed and hopefully be in a
position to save lives,” Shapiro said.
It’s a quick and painless cheek swab, and the majority of donations do not involve surgery, according to the Be The Match Foundation.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what it involves,” Shapiro said. “People shouldn’t assume because they have certain conditions they can’t be registered.”
Today, Shapiro’s condition is stable. The drive, she said, “is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve walked in their shoes and I’ve seen people are just waiting for a match.
“If I could, I wanted to do something to help other people. That gave me the impetus to push forward.”