When Riley was just eight years old, she began feeling sick—as if she might have the flu. But when her blood test came back with alarming numbers, she was taken to the emergency room immediately. Further testing brought a diagnosis we never saw coming – leukemia. Hearing that your child has cancer is the worst moment a parent can face.
After a year of chemotherapy treatment, Riley’s leukemia had returned, so her oncologist recommended a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, Riley had a suitable donor match on the Be The Match Registry® - something we’ve learned is not the case for every patient that needs one.
We came to understand the ‘needle in a haystack’ nature of the match process when we learned that Riley’s donor was an international donor. That’s when it really sunk in how incredibly lucky we were to find someone who was a very good match and was ready to donate his bone marrow.
Even though she had found her donor match, Riley wanted to do something to help patients who were still searching for their donor match. So, as many of you may recall, she starred in her own YouTube video (SpitForRiley) to encourage others to swab their cheeks and join the Be The Match Registry.
In May 2018, Riley received her bone marrow transplant. While she didn’t develop any complications, the road to recovery was long. She finally returned to her school after spring break in March 2019.
Now 14 years old, Riley is doing great. She enjoys food and cooking (she was so excited to eat sushi again!). She plays sports and piano, does well in school and is in good overall health.
Fighting cancer was the main thing that defined her life—and ours, too—for three years. But now what defines her life is time with friends, studying for tests, cooking a great meal, celebrating birthdays or playing in a basketball game, and for that we will be forever grateful.
Since experiencing first-hand the life-saving impact of the Be The Match mission, we have become steadfast supporters. We are dedicating our time and contributions towards accelerating their cause. This year, we are both humbled and excited to have been asked to be the 2023 Be The Match Gala Honorary Chairs. We’re also thrilled that this experience will include the incredible moment when Riley and our family meet her life-saving donor, Ioan, for the very first time in person. He’ll be traveling from Wales to participate in this special evening with us at the Gala.
We are grateful for the opportunity to tell our story with the hope of inspiring others to support Be The Match in any way they can. Please join us – whether you decide to attend the event with us, contribute towards our fundraising page, or find other ways to support the mission (like joining the registry!) – every action you take alongside us can help patients get to, and through, transplant – providing more outcomes like Riley’s.