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SMC club sponsors bone marrow registry drive

| Thursday, November 20, 2014

Saint Mary’s Stand Up To Cancer student club will host a bone marrow registry drive for students and the Michiana community Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Reignbeaux Lounge of Le Mans Hall.

Junior Allison Lukomski said the event is a special way for students to help make a life-changing difference in the lives of cancer patients everywhere. Lukomski said she matched with a cancer patient this past summer and recently donated blood stem cells to her match.

“I registered to become a possible match because it was an event that the Saint Mary’s College Stand Up To Cancer club was running,” Lukomski said. “Never once did I question doing this. I just felt that there was no reason not to join. In my head, I just thought to myself ‘this could save a life, why shouldn’t I join?’”

When Lukomski donated at last year’s drive, she said she never thought she would be matched with anyone.

“Never did I think I would be matched in a million years,” she said. “Little to my disgrace, it was the perfect timing. Being a junior in college, I tend to get caught up in the hype of having good grades, getting ready to apply to grad schools, etc., but by being matched, I had to realize how important things in my life really are.”

Less than six months after joining the list, Lukomski said she learned she had been matched with a 60-year-old female recipient with myelodysplastic syndrome.

“Since the majority of matches are from the patient’s family members, I realized when I was matched that I was her only chance because no one in her family was her match,” she said. “It is a lot to emotionally take on at once, but I had my family supporting me, and they reminded me that this was something that God had planned for my recipient and me.”

Lukomski currently does not know how her recipient is recovering, but she said she will be notified around Nov. 23 as to how her recipient’s body responded to her stem cells.

A note, written by Lukomski, was delivered to her match along with the donated stem cells, but Lukomski said she was not allowed to include any personal information in the note.

“I will have the chance to write her only through [the national marrow donor program] Be The Match if my recipient is willing,” she said. “The same goes for meeting her. Through the rules of the organization, we cannot meet until a full year has passed from her receiving the donation. I would love to meet her at that point, and I hope she feels the same.”

Lukomski said she is encouraging fellow students to join the list of possible donors this Friday at the drive.

“Why wouldn’t you want to potentially have the ability to save a life?” she said. “At any time throughout the process, you have the choice to say that you no longer wish to continue. It is your choice to even agree to start the process. So I would encourage everyone to just join the list. The swab of your check does not hurt. If you get selected for the donation process, you as the donor can stop the process and decline it at anytime. You are in full control of what happens to you.”

The donation itself did not hurt at all, as Lukomski said she was given injections of filgrastim five days prior to her donation day.

“My body was achey, but that is expected,” she said. “Filgrastim is a drug that increases the number of blood-forming cells, bone marrow cells in my bloodstream. That was the only thing that caused me pain, the constant ache I had from the drug doings its job. It was nothing horrible, just a constant ache. Other than that, I did not experience any pain.”

By joining the registration list, Lukomski said students provide hope to people fighting for their lives and may even change their futures.

“That is why I love this organization,” she said. “They are saving lives through the strength and help of strangers. It never hurts to try something, and this is a chance to do something that is bigger than yourself and to feel like you made a difference. Join because you want to make a difference and save a life.”

Lukomski is extremely grateful for the support she has received from her family, boyfriend and his family throughout the entire process, she said.

“Without them being there for me, the process of donating would not have been as wonderful,” she said. “I wanted my family with me throughout everything I did, and I was lucky that they were there. But the most important thing that I am grateful for throughout this experience is that I was selected to save a life.”

Even without meeting her recipient or having any knowledge of her identity, Lukomski said she considers her match a part of her family.

“I cannot imagine what my recipient and her family have gone through,” she said. “Without meeting her or knowing anything about her, she is now a part of my family, and that is what made this whole experience so rewarding.

“It is the ability to save a life. Sure there will be fears and some pain, but in the long run the outcome makes every fear and pain worth it. As college students, I think we sometimes get caught up in our lives of planning for grad schools and getting a job after graduation. I believe that by me being matched was my way of realizing that I need to start looking at the really important things in life, like life itself.”

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