Many of you know that our son, Blake Chandler, fought and survived a battle with cancer in 2015 only to find out (two days after ringing the bell) that he had relapsed back to a stage 4 Lymphoma on March 25, 2016. We were thrown back into the nightmare of cancer and battling for his life. Many of you stayed steadfast next to us along our journey through prayer, personal messages, and friendship. When your child relapses often the only chance of life is a bone marrow transplant. We knew we had a tough road ahead but we were determined to do all we could to give Blake a chance at life free of cancer. Thankfully, we didn't have to go it alone or without guidance and support.
Be The Match was the organization that facilitated and found our perfect bone marrow match all the way across the world in Israel. Many people do not realize that Be The Match is the only organization in the U.S. that facilitates those needing bone marrow transplants to find their donors. Be The Match doesn't just stop at the U.S. borders. They search worldwide through partnerships with other registries in other countries. They search tirelessly until they find a donor. Often times they are able to find a donor but sometimes there simply isn't a good match because the majority of people do not realize how easy it is to become a donor or how easy it is to actually donate. Many still believe bone marrow transplants are done through surgeries removing marrow; however, transplants can be done through stem cell donation that is very much like giving blood. My son had a stem cell transplant that saved his life and gave him the future he is living today. Blake is almost 3 years post-transplant this August and is thriving thanks to Be The Match, the transplant center at Texas Children's Hospital, and of course, his donor Shachar from Israel (who at the time was a 19 year girl). We count our blessings daily and are so thankful for the place we are in today.
Blake's Journey, and others, are the reason that we joined "Team Be The Match" to raise money because we are passionate about saving lives and providing all children with lifesaving procedures such as bone marrow and stem cell transplants. Through Be The Match we learned that in addition to finding donors to save lives, they also provide much needed funding to families going through the transplant process as well as scholars and doctors researching new life saving procedures in hopes of using them for bone marrow and stem cell transplants. When we spoke to Keith Stout at Be The Match, we told him about our desire to make a difference and give back. However, we were very specific in what area we would like to give to.
Some of you may know Angela and Gary Luke (Mahlon's nana and grandpa) as well as Sarah and Josh Halter (Austyn's parents). They are fellow parents who were on the cancer floor with us at Texas Children's hospital. Their children were also battling for their lives from a horrible diagnosis and our kids became friends through their common battles. We gave each other hope and support as well as a shoulder to cry on. Unfortunately, Mahlon and Austyn's journey ended way too soon. Both Mahlon and Austyn had transplants; however, they ended up relapsing within a year of transplant. This earth and those wonderful friends lost their beautiful children to cancer. My faimly will never forget those amazing children. When we spoke to Keith at Be The Match about fundraising efforts we told him about Mahlon and Austyn and how our desire was to help fund research that would help those that find themselves in the same situation as are friends and relapse after bone marrow/stem cell transplant. We want to help those children and their parents find their forever cure and get access to life saving procedures after relapse. Focus needs to be on helping those that have had a harder time and not giving up on them because they relapse after transplant. Keith promised to look into the idea and get back to us on possibilities.
Two days later we got an excited call from Keith that we couldn't believe. Keith told us that there just happened to be a doctor at Texas Children's Hospital, Dr. Rayne Rouce, Pediatric Oncologist, that was researching relapse in pediatric cancer patients after bone marrow/stem cell transplant and she had completed 3 years of research already and had 2 more years to go but was short on funding. We felt that this was a sign and exactly what our heart's desire was. We told Keith immediately that that we wanted to help raise funds for her to help her finish her research. Specifically, Dr. Rayne Rouce, who has a specialized focus on high risk leukemia and Lymphoma, is researching T cells that target the CD19 molecule to treat relapse and viral infection in patients with high risk for developing B-cell malignancies after undergoing bone marrow transplant. Specifically, how to harness the body’s own immune system to target and kill difficult to treat tumors. In her clinical practice at Texas Children’s Hospital, she takes care of many patients who ultimately require a life-saving bone marrow transplant, because standard therapies have failed them. One of the most devastating problems that haunts her daily is the inability to prevent relapse and other complications in some patients after transplant. Imagine, going through something as harrowing as a transplant (not to mention the often years of chemotherapy and sometimes radiation before that) only to find out your or your child’s cancer has returned. The work Dr. Rouce’s lab and research group is focused on identifying immune targeted ways to safely prevent and treat relapse and infection post-transplant. In her lab, they use special “super fighter” T cells equipped with artificial receptors to recognize and target even small amounts of leukemia or lymphoma. These same T cells are often trained in the laboratory to target viral infections, which are another cause of death after transplant. Her team is also exploring ways to use T cells from healthy donors to do the job for patients’ T cells when they are sleep on the job. We want to provide her with the funds for her to continue her research so those that relapse after transplant have hope and another chance at life.
If that wasn't coincidence enough, we also found out that Blake's donor from Isreal had obtained her VISA to come to the U.S. to meet Blake. We were beyond happy to hear that we would have an opportunity to meet this amazing young lady and her father. Blake will finally get to meet his donor on April 24th for the first time. Therefore, because we have been blessed beyond words, we are raising money for funding through Be The Match for Dr. Rouce's research. Our goal is to raise at total of $20,000.00, prior to the event, to give to as a scholarship to help fund the research project. Additionally, in order to help obtain our fundraising goal, we have agreed to match every dollar donated up to $10,000.00.
Please consider giving to this cause as Be The Match will give 100% of the funds raised to Dr. Rouce's research. Your gift can fund much needed innovative research to improve pediatric transplant outcomes. Help us reach our fundraising goal by making a tax-deductible contribution. Your gift delivers cures to patients desperate for a second chance at life. Every dollar counts. Together, we can make a difference!