Becoming a Love Hope Strength Volunteer
I just learned that I helped find a potentially life saving MATCH for a bone marrow transplant.
I know, I'm not the match but it was the best that I could do.
When I heard the news today no one was here to see the goosebumps on my arms and the tears in my eyes but it got me thinking about how the whole story evolved so I thought I would share it.
On August 14th 2011, I participated in a Memorial rek up Mt. Snowdon, in Wales, in honor of those young men that we have lost too early from testicular cancer. I was carrying a banner with the names of three young men that I wanted to especially honor, so I was excited and motivated by this. I was also happy knowing I was going to see many of my UK testicular cancer brothers and that the trip was part of my 5 year Cancerversary celebration
During the trek we ran into another group of hikers that seemed to be rocking out the entire way up. Indeed, they were rocking out as Mike Peters from The Alarm/Big Country was among them and playing music as they ascended. I enjoyed the jams and later learned the group was part of Mike’s organization Love Hope Strength.
That evening at the hotel, I met several people from Love Hope Strength UK as I was eager to learn more about what they did. I learned that they were also located in the U.S. and that they got people registered on the bone marrow donor registry.
Joining the bone marrow donation list was something that I had wanted to do but never had. I felt that registering was part of my obligation of being a cancer survivor. After all, I was already an organ donor so why not donate bone marrow to save a fellow cancer fighter’s life. At least with bone marrow I could donate while I was still alive. I knew too that some testicular cancer fighters undergo bone marrow/stem cell transplants (luckily they can use their own bone marrow/stem cells) and I thought that perhaps I could encourage other testicular cancer survivors to register as well.
Upon returning to the U.S., I started to learn a bit more about Love Hope Strength and the bone marrow registry. I learned that their Executive Director at the time, Shannon Foley, even had a brother that had faced testicular cancer. Unfortunately, I also learned that as a cancer survivor I was not eligible to be a bone marrow donor.
Not being eligible to be a donor diminished my enthusiasm a bit. Then,in March of 2013, I was invited to participate in the Belfast Strut in Northern Ireland. This event launched the “Zero Campaign” in celebration of Northern Ireland achieving zero annual deaths from testicular cancer 3 times in 10 years. Amazingly, Shannon Foley and her fiancée Jeremy Henn were also in attendance and I got to spend several days getting to know them and Love Hope Strength better.n were also in attendance and I got to spend several days getting to know them and Love Hope Strength better.
I retuned back home with a new mission. I realized that even if I couldn’t register myself, that I could help get others registered or even get them to register in my honor.
I decided to attend Vail Rocks, one of Love Hope Strength’s main events, in June 2013 so that I could learn even more. At Vail Rocks I got to see Mike Peters again and even sign his guitar that he was going to use on his U.S. tour. Imagine that, a cancer survivor signing a rock star’s guitar. If you didn’t already know, Mike Peters is also a cancer survivor so it is even more of an honor to get to sign a fellow cancer survivor’s guitar. I also got to meet Shannon and Jeremy’s families and many of the Love Hope Strength volunteers and supporters.
I volunteered for my first concert on July 26th2014 at the Under The Sun Tour in Columbus, Ohio. I was basically the local lead and my dear friend Lisa, who was in treatments for a brain cancer recurrence at the time, was the first to volunteer to help. My friend Jason came to help as well. How amazing it was to be doing what we were doing. Here we were, two cancer survivors (one of which was back in the fight) attending a rock concert to help get people registered for the bone marrow donation registry and perhaps help save a fellow cancer fighters life.
I again took the lead and volunteered for a Flogging Molly concert in Cincinnati in March 2014.
While at 35,000 feet flying to the OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults in April I received a Facebook message from Jeremy Henn explaining that Katie Poppert, the Love Hope Strength’s National Medical Advisor was going to be in Las Vegas for the summit and may need some help so I volunteered for two O.A.R. shows while in Las Vegas.
I had a great time meeting Katie and she was going to be in Columbus, Ohio in May for Community for a Cure so I again volunteered.
To date, the events I have volunteered for have gotten around 175 people “On The List” to be potentially life saving bone marrow donors.
The amazing thing is that today, August 3, 2014, I learned that I have been a part of finding a potentially life saving match!! One of the people we registered at the Community for a Cure event is a match for a current patient in need for a bone marrow transplant.
Wow, what a trip it has been in the last 3 years. I have gone from knowing nothing to bumping into Mike Peters, to learning about Love Hope Strength, to meeting Shannon, Jeremy, Katie (and many other volunteers and supporters), to hiking up Vail mountain, to volunteering numerous times and FINDING A MATCH!!
Things have also changed along the way. Shannon has resigned as Executive Director and moved on to other ventures so congratulations to her. Unfortunately, my dear friend Lisa passed away but I know how proud she is knowing that I was part of helping find a match and that she was there at my first concert as a volunteer and my biggest supporter. Lisa was an amazing person. Can you imaging being in treatments, bald and attending a rock concert to help possibly save another cancer fighters life?
There is also one huge constant. Love Hope Strength is Saving Lives, One Concert at a Time.
Learn more about volunteering for Love Hope Strength and help save lives too.