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If you could save a life, would you?

Erica (pic, at right) is a mom of two boys, ages five and two.  She is fighting acute mylogenous leukemia (AML) and is in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant.  No matching donor has been found, and Erica is running out of time.  Her husband Harley was a law school classmate of mine.  He is asking everyone to please consider joining their country’s donor registry – the person who can save Erica’s life could be anywhere.  The majority of matches are between unrelated people.

Fewer than 1 in 500 people who register are ever contacted to donate, but if you are a match, you can save a life – maybe even Erica’s. The process starts by filling out a simple online questionnaire.  If you are eligible to donate, your registry will send you a kit to take a cheek swab and return it to them.  In most cases, registering is free.  Joining the registry does not obligate you to donate.

If you are a match, there are two ways to donate.  The most frequently used method is via peripheral blood stem cells.  It is similar to donating blood, but you take a drug for a few days before the donation to pump up your blood-forming cells.  The other method involves day surgery under a general anesthetic.  A needle is inserted into the pelvic bone through a small incision and the marrow withdrawn.  In both cases, people return to work within 1-7 days and feel completely recovered within 2-3 weeks.  It takes the body only 4-6 weeks to replace the donated cells or marrow.  The donor’s medical costs are usually completely covered.

Here are links to the donor registries for the top four English-speaking countries that make up the traffic for this blog.  If I haven’t included your country, a simple Google search will probably bring up your registry’s website.

In Canada: (I registered here today.)

In the USA:

In Britain:

In Australia:

The Internet can do amazing things.  A guy from Toronto recently took up an online collection for an elderly bus monitor in New York after viewing a Youtube video of her being bullied on the bus.  He wanted to send her on a nice vacation.  Within weeks, he raised over $600,000 for her.  Imagine what could happen if everyone who read this post decided to register as a potential donor?

Thanks for reading this.  I’m hoping for some magic.

Please feel free to share and distribute this post – Erica’s match is out there, somewhere.

If you would like to know more about Erica’s story, here is an e-mail from her husband, Harley, explaining what they’ve gone through over the past month:


Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail.  This is our urgent
plea to you and to everyone that you know to help my amazing wife/our
boys' super-mama Erica find a suitable bone marrow transplant donor to
help to save her life and to get her back home to our two young boys
(ages 2 and 5).  I have attached a pic of Team Harris from a few months
ago and a recent pic of Erica in hospital.

On the afternoon of June 6th, we were told that Erica had acute mylogenous leukemia (AML).   
She was immediately admitted to the Leukemia/BMT ward at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) 
and a first round of chemo was started on June 8th.  The first round lasted 7 days.

The intent of chemotherapy for AML (an acute form of blood cancer) 
is to wipe out all of the bad (leukemic) as well as the
good cells in Erica's bone marrow (where blood cells are formed and
grow).   What the doctors are looking for after the chemo treatment is
for the bone marrow to be entirely clear of all cells, enabling Erica's
healthy cells to start growing again without the bad leukemic cells
(essentially pressing a bone marrow "reset" button).  When the bone
marrow is clear after chemo and the recovery period, the doctors call it

On June 21st, Erica had a bone marrow biopsy to determine if the 1st round
of chemo had done its job.   Instead of a clear marrow, what showed was about 10% "immature" 
cells.  The concern of her doctors was that these were bad leukemic cells that were not
destroyed by the chemo.

On June 28th, Erica had another bone marrow biopsy.  We
received the results the next day, on Friday, June 29th.  These results
showed clearly that the 1st round of chemo did not do its job.  As of
June 28th, the bad leukemic cells were estimated at 60% to 70% of her
marrow.  When this all started at the beginning of June, before any
chemo treatments, her bad cells were estimated at 26%.

What does this mean? For starters, we were told that
this result means that she is in the "high risk" designation for AML.
Very high doses of different, harsher chemo drugs and a bone marrow
transplant (BMT) are the urgent course of treatment.

They started what they call "salvage" chemo on Saturday
morning (June 30th).  This aggressive round of chemo lasts 6 days, with
a 4 to 6 week estimated "recovery" period afterwards.   We were also
told that if this chemo does not do its job and put Erica's leukemia
into remission that there are no other courses of treatment for Erica at

Assuming this harsher chemo does its job, Erica needs a
BMT right away.  The BMT has to occur shortly after this round of chemo,
once remission is indicated (ie that the marrow is clear of the bad
leukemic cells).

We need your urgent assistance with the bone marrow.

We need to find Erica as close a match as possible for her BMT from an
un-related donor.   There are international bone marrow donor registries
that are being searched right now.  As of Friday, the doctor indicated
that a match had not been found yet.   Further, if a match is found
somewhere in the world, that donor has to confirm their consent.

Our window of time is very short to find a suitable, willing donor if
the chemo does its job and the marrow is clear.

If you, or someone you know, agree to donate, and get on the donor
registry very quickly, you may be able to assist Erica.

Please encourage friends, colleagues and family to sign up to the
registry to donate their stem cells/bone marrow if they are able.

Please circulate and post this information and our plea everywhere you

For those of you in Canada, below is a link to the "One Match" bone
marrow registry run by Canadian Blood Services (CBS).   Information
about the registry and forms to complete are on this site:
age/Join_OneMatch?OpenDocument   I have also attached the One Match
information package from the website as a pdf to this e-mail for ease of
reference if you prefer a hard copy to read.

There is a process to follow.  Once you sign up online, CBS contacts you
in 8-10 business days and sends you a swab kit - you can contact your
local CBS office to see if you can shorten this timeline and/or have the
swab done at their location.  Time is of the essence.

Also, if you, and/or anyone you know, are able to donate blood and/or
platelets - this is also very important.    Erica had a number of
transfusions of platelets and hemoglobins in her first round of chemo
and we anticipate there will be many more transfusions during this next
chemo treatment.   You never realize how important donating blood and
platelets really is until you are receiving them.

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, strength and support.

Thank you for spreading the word and circulating our plea.

Thank you for helping to bring Erica home.

Faith, Hope and Love
Team Harris

"Go Fighters Go"
(This is what our boys say to their mama to help her get her healthy
"fighter" cells working again in her body).

8 Comments On “If you could save a life, would you?

  1. Cynthia Reply

    Folks, I received a wonderful update from Harley today. It brought me to tears. I will let him share it with you:

    We have some very exciting and joyous news to share with you!!!

    Firstly, thank you, thank you all for your dedicated and ongoing support
    of Team Harris – your prayers, thoughts, strength, encouragement and
    support have been truly uplifting and inspirational. You are a circle
    of love for all of us.

    Since Erica’s discharge from VGH in-patient care on August 1st, we have
    spent most of our time exclusively on the homefront enjoying beautiful
    moments with the boys….with many backyard splash adventures, games of
    hide and go seek, puzzles, reading, sing alongs etc.. and the simple
    pleasures Erica loves most of all – being the first smile the boys see
    each morning and the last to kiss their cheeks as she tucks them in each
    night. When the boys sleep/nap, Erica has dedicated herself to creating
    amazing mementos for our boys – making beautiful scrapbooks, photos,
    writing letters, making CDs , videos and other many other special

    We have also been busy seeking as many wellness options as possible –
    from our amazing circle of love that surrounds us, we have been
    introduced to the world of meditation, visualization and healing hands
    practitioners. We have become connected with top naturopaths and
    pharmacists and are following their advice and supplements diligently.
    We have been blessed with multiple prayer groups/circles and have even
    been gifted a beautiful wooden hand held cross of Saint Mary MacKillop
    (who was credited with curing someone’s leukemia) brought to us from
    Australia. So many of you have done such extensive research on our
    behalf for treatments and forwarded us pivotal tips that we have
    pursued…we apologize if we have not responded to you, but all of the
    insights and suggestions have been put to great use and we feel so
    fortunate to have accessed so many healing paths because of your

    The boys have been incredible. Hudson puts his hands on Erica’s cheeks
    each night to help heal her and has created a little lego “machine” to
    help pull the bad weeds (as we have explained the cancer to him) from
    her body… he massages her back every day and these healing hands are
    truly miraculous. He said to Erica the other night all on his own
    “Mama, you have to believe!” Hugh loves to rest with mama – giving her
    the longest snuggles, humming together so beautifully.
    Thanks to all of you, the fire within Team Harris to find a cure for
    Erica and Erica’s unfailing strength, courage, determination, love and
    faith, she has done much better than the original prognosis given to us
    on July 31st. Indeed, our doctors at VGH were so pleased with Erica’s
    weekly blood test results and recovering “counts”, they ordered a bone
    marrow biopsy to find out what was happening in Erica’s bone marrow.
    The biopsy was yesterday. We received the results this afternoon.

    Erica’s July 30th biopsy indicated that there were approximately 25%-30%
    leukemic (bad) cells in her marrow.

    To be considered in remission, VGH advised us that patients need to have
    5% or less leukemic cells in their marrow.

    At VGH they will only do a stem cell/bone marrow transplant if a patient
    is in remission.

    Today we learned that the biopsy from yesterday shows that Erica now has
    less than 3% leukemic cell in her marrow.

    This means she is in FULL REMISSION!!

    This is the best possible outcome from the biopsy that we all prayed and
    hoped for.

    Our doctor had no explanation for this amazing result and said that they
    had not seen anything like it before. He asked if Erica had received
    any treatments in August that we had not informed them of…

    A miracle. That is the explanation. A true, blessed and God-given

    In conjunction with our dedicated BMT Coordinator, One Match and all of
    your support, a 10/10 unrelated stem cell/bone marrow match was found
    for Erica at the end of July. This donor is now in the process of being
    “activated”. Another donor’s blood is also being tested as a “back up”
    and we are hopeful that this donor will also be a match for Erica, if

    They are trying to fast track the donor process as much as possible and
    our doctor is hopeful Erica may be able to start the stem cell/bone
    marrow transplant process at VGH in October. The transplant process
    usually takes approximately 3 months in hospital.

    We have been truly blessed. You are all witness to a spectacular and
    glorious miracle.

    Thank you to each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts.

    Faith, Hope and Love Always,
    Team Harris

    “Go Fighters Go!!”

  2. Laura Reply

    I stumbled upon your blog looking for recipes and felt moved to join at Thanks for reaching out to try to help this family. Maybe my own blood/marrow will help someone someday.

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Thank you so much Laura for joining up.

      Funny how people find this site. Recipes, huh. I think the only recipe I ever posted was a protein smoothie, and that was a long time ago. Oddly, people searching on 90s also find this site a lot. (WordPress shows you the search terms that led people to your blog, and while most are predictable, some just make me scratch my head.)

  3. Cynthia Reply

    I received some sad news from Harley today. They found a bone marrow match for Erica, but the salvage chemo did not eradicate the leukemia cells, so a bone marrow transplant would not be effective for her. No further conventional treatments are available, so Erica’s doctors released her to go home to her family to make the most of the very short time she has left – a few months at most.

    I am so sad for her and Harley and their two beautiful boys. Thank you to all who registered to donate bone marrow or circulated their plea to others. Even though we weren’t able to help Erica, every person who registers to donate bone marrow could save a life. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

  4. Tim Reply

    Thanks for posting this! I donate blood every 3 months here, I must look into bone marrow donation, especially if it’s similar to blood donation!

  5. Jeff Cox Reply

    Registered about 6 months ago

  6. Jane Ball Reply

    Erica and Harley,
    I really hope someone comes through for you, I’m registered with the Anthony Nolan trust here in the UK, the website for anyone interested in the UK is
    I wish you and your boys the best of luck, stay strong,
    Janey, UK.

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Thank you so much Janey. Harley mentioned to me that 98% of the procedures for donating marrow in British Columbia (where he lives) are via the blood donation method, as opposed to surgery.

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