The first time that I had ever heard of Be The Match was years ago when Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts announced her cancer diagnosis.
In the campaign that acted as a 30-second television spot, Roberts said, “I have a chance to survive blood cancer because my big sister answered ‘yes’ to being my marrow donor. You can join the Be The Match Registry today at BeTheMatch.org, and stand ready to cure someone with a disease like leukemia.”
It was a powerful call-to-action that made me feel some type of way about resting on my laurels as opposed to doing what I can for those in need. The potential to be someone’s cure really spoke to me. I found myself signing up to register as a donor in the registry shortly after.
But I stopped myself from continuing with the process after receiving some input from my mother who felt that it was a painful process and just something that black people just “don’t do”. That phrase is something that stops us in our tracks as a community a lot, sometimes to our detriment – that day five years ago was no different.
The Urgent Need for Diversity
My encounters with Be The Match came full circle for me the other day when I received an email from a representative who felt like Black History Month would be the perfect time to relay a message to our readers that was a simple, clear, yet resounding, “We need you.” Even though Roberts’ campaign led to over 40,000 new donors signing up, there is still an undeniable void amongst one group of people in the registry: black people.
Patients are most likely to match a donor that closely shares their ancestry. Black people have historically had the lowest odds of finding a match compared to other populations in the registry. Why? Because…
Black people have the most diverse genetic tissue types compared to other ethnicities.
Not enough black people volunteer as bone marrow donors in the registry.
Currently, we only make up 6% of the registry, which is a far cry from the 51% that account for white people in the registry. As the global leader of umbilical cord blood transplants and bone marrow transplants, Be The Match is often the only hope for patients looking to find a cure for blood-related cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, as well as sickle cell anemia, and other anemic/blood disorders. It should be noted that bone marrow is so far the only cure out there for sickle cell anemia.
Read the full story on xoNecole.