SAN ANTONIO - Taylor Castro's year started off well with the birth of her third child in March, but it is ending on a much different note.
The young mother was diagnosed in October with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, an aggressive blood cancer that has left her tired and unable to work. Now, she is using her story to urge others to join the National Marrow Donor Program through the Be The Match Registry, which could provide her and others with their best chance for a cure.
"The more people we get on there ... the higher chances of anybody that has either a different form of leukemia, or even a form of lymphoma, to find their match," Castro said.
The matches from the NMDP can provide recipients with either bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplants. Patients have a 25 percent chance of matching with someone in their family and most will need an unrelated donor, according to statistics provided by a South Texas Blood & Tissue Center spokeswoman.
As an employee of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, Castro coordinated documents for mobile blood drives, but she now finds herself in the position of needing a lifesaving donation in the form of stem cells herself.
Without a transplant, Castro said she would need more chemotherapy treatments and medication.
"But it would eventually get to that point where my body wouldn't be able to handle it anymore," Castro said.
Castro had previously been involved in marrow awareness, and her experience as a patient has only added to her passion.
"I think now that I understand both sides, it really helps push more that I want to get this awareness out and to help explain that it's not painful, it's not scary and, potentially, you're saving somebody's life," she said.
Since matches are often found in someone with the same racial or ethnic ancestry, Castro, who is part Caucasian and part Hispanic, could have extra trouble finding a match.
Hispanics make up only 7 percent of the registry, according to the STBTC spokeswoman.
But even if Castro isn't able to find a match herself, she hopes her efforts could at least save someone else's life.
"Just because I was able to help spread awareness, that would be a really good gift for me," she said.
HOW TO REGISTER
If you would like to sign up as a bone marrow or stem cell donor on the Be The Match Registry, you can text "GENCURE" to 61474 to be sent a link for registration, or you can visit join.bethematch.org/Taylor.
Those who complete the form will receive a cheek swab kit that will need to be used and returned by mail.
Potential donors must be in good health and between 18 and 44 with no history of serious illness. Registered donors will be on the list until they are 61 years old.
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