Hopeful recipient stresses importance of stem cell, bone marrow donations

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WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — A local mother of two who’s fighting cancer for the second time has made it her mission to spread awareness of the national bone marrow and stem cell donation registry.

“People die every day because they don’t have a donor match,” Jennifer Leal said Thursday. “I want so many more to be aware, and register, so more lives can be saved.”

Leal was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in Oct. 2017 and while chemotherapy seemed to work initially, her remission was short-lived. This past fall, she found out the cancer was back.

“The current plan is for me to admit into the hospital by the end of the month to begin the stem cell transplant,” she said.

The Westerly resident was fortunate to learn that the national registry found two matches. After her number-one match declined on Wednesday, she’s now waiting to hear whether the second donor will go ahead with the procedure.

“My immediate emotion was, of course, feeling some fear, scared that we are starting this process to save my life and that person couldn’t, and sad of course because that person couldn’t, and I don’t know the reason why, they may have a very valid reason why,” Leal said.

In addition to working in clinical research, Leal runs a blog aiming to spread the word about the registry, the importance of donating and what signing up entails.

“Maybe what the purpose is for me during this time is to share this awareness and get the word out,” she said.

Leal also noted that donors don’t have to pay any of the medical expenses for a transplant. 

Register as a Donor » | Learn More About Transplants »

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