Sara Massey | Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation

Sara Massey

My mom is a pharmacist and I currently attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, I was shocked and sad but I wasn’t scared. To me, breast cancer was one of the “normal” cancers. I remember the exhausting days and weeks following her surgery and radiation treatments, but we happily got to celebrate her return to health. 

After a few short cancer-free months, doctors began to investigate “weird” blood levels. Mom would send me her labs, and I would review them with professors, trying to come up with an answer for what was going on. In December 2016, she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes. When I got the call, I was not only upset but scared. The fear I felt was not only of another cancer diagnosis. It was fear of the unknown. I’d never heard of MDS, didn’t know how it worked, how it was treated, how it was cured. I attended the bone marrow transplant consultation at KU Med with my parents where we learned that the only cure for MDS is a transplant.

One night during winter break, I was tossing and turning trying to fall asleep. My mom’s diagnosis was still new and lingering in my thoughts. My mind was racing, trying to come up with a plan to help my mom. Finally, it clicked.

I realized that I could take advantage of my role as the current president of the APhA-ASP Chapter on campus to help promote a bone marrow drive. APhA-ASP is a national pharmacy organization focused on improving and expanding patient care, and it’s also the biggest organization at UMKC. Within a few hours, my advisor and colleagues were on board. I had a plan to host drives on all three campuses of UMKC School of Pharmacy, as well as in my hometown.

Delete Blood Cancer/DKMS helped me follow through with my drives, providing guidance and DNA testing kits. The goal for our events in the first week of March is to reach as many people as we can throughout the state of Missouri and the rest of the U.S. My hope is that our story can help inspire thousands of people around the world.

My mom was very lucky because, unlike most people, she had a 100 percent DNA match with her two siblings. Even though she has her donor, we want to increase blood cancer awareness and help other patients find the match they need through the National Donor Registry.