This is my paternal grandmother. Her name was Marian, but we called her Nan. I don’t talk about her as much as I do Nana, but that’s because I didn’t know her as well. Actually, I don’t remember her at all. She died of leukemia when I was three. I’ve learned more about her in the last few years through my genealogy research than I ever knew my whole life prior. I have only a few pictures of her and my only real connection to her is through a couple of tatty lace doilies. I don’t even know that she made them, they were just…hers.
About 13 years ago, I was given the opportunity to join the bone marrow registry. This means that if I am called as a match for someone who needs a bone marrow transplant, I will donate. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but for me it was a no-brainer. I have the ability to give a grandmother and a granddaughter something Nan and I never had: the chance to know each other.
On October 26 I’ll be running in the Be the Match 5K in Phoenix. Be the Match is the organization behind the bone marrow registry which matches patients with donors and conducts research to improve outcomes of transplantation. The sucky part of this race is that there’s a need for it in the first place. But because leukemia and other blood cancers are still out there, I feel fortunate to participate in such an important event, running away from cancer and towards a cure.
Cancer is the basest kind of thief. It robs with no regard. Cancer didn’t care that I would grow up with questions only Nan could have answered. It didn’t care that she had a life of experiences and wisdom to impart before she left. It took what it wanted, leaving behind only conversations unspoken and memories unmade. Cancer stole a part of my history. And for that I fucking hate it.
But what’s lost is gone and what’s left are possibilities. For cures, for conversations, for relationships, for life. When I run next weekend, I’ll be running for the match Nan never had, for the match I could be, for the match I hope you’ll never need.