An interview with Love Hope Strength executive director Shannon Foley
A couple of weeks ago I got an email from my friend Maitri. A friend of hers was in serious trouble and she wanted my help.
“I’d seen her the day before and everything was fine. And she said, ‘I think my husband has leukemia‘.” Maitri said. “And they’ve checked him into the UW cancer ward.”
Here in Madison the University of Wisconsin is home to one of top research facilities in the county the Carbone Cancer Center. With very little notice Maitri’s friend was immediately admitted to the affiliated community hospital.
“I was most surprised with how quickly it happened and how urgently the medical profession had to respond,” Maitri said. “Sunday I was at church with her. She went home after church. Her husband said ‘I have some pain in my legs. I think I’ll go to the doctor tomorrow.’ And she said ‘Let’s give the nurse on call a quick phone call and just make sure this is fine.’ The nurse said you need to go to the emergency room now. We went and they were ready to check him into the hospital that afternoon. So one minute fine, leg cramp, next minute checked into the UW Hospital ward.”
“With leukemia,”I said.
“Correct,” she said.
I’m no doctor. So from me it was not medical assistance she was looking for at least not directly. What Maitri wanted was my bone marrow. You see the best chance anyone suffering from Leukemia has is to receive a bone marrow transplant. And while there are more than 8 million bone marrow donors registered in the United State it’s nowhere near enough. With very specific genetic requirements an exact match for a bone marrow donor is very hard to come by.
“It’s easiest to find a genetic match with someone who’s related to you and secondarily of the same ethnic background, etc,” Maitri said. “And 70 percent of people cannot find a match within their own family. So they need to find an unrelated donor and unfortunately only about 4 out 10 people that are looking for an unrelated donor actually do.”
Hearing this it didn’t take much to convince me that it would be worth it to register as a bone marrow donor. And though I was not a good match for Maitri’s friend someone somewhere out there may one day need my help. Fortunately her friend’s husband found a match. He’s undergoing treatment. But the plight others who might not be so lucky got me thinking.
Less than a week after signing up for the national bone marrow donor registry, I reconnected with another friend named Shannon Foley. She’s the executive director of an organization called Love Hope Strength.
“Tell us what your organization is and what it does,” I asked Shannon in an interview.
“We are I guess the one and only, therefore the largest, rock n roll cancer foundation,” she said. “And we started about 3 and half years ago. And we travel the world, putting on concerts in order to raise money to build cancer centers in regions of the world that have no access to cancer care. And here in the United States, we go to concerts and we find matches for people in need of bone marrow transplants. So we swab peoples’ cheeks It’s a very simple process. We wave to processing fee, which is normally $65. And we get you registered to see if you can be the match to a patient with leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, any kind of blood disorders, blood cancers.”
In the summer of 2009 Shannon and her team at Love Hope Strength managed to register 4,000 new bone marrow donors to the national database. So far this year they’ve matched 30 cancer patients for bone marrow transplants that will save their lives. The idea of mixing performing artists and their music with this kind of philanthropic giving is part of an amazing adventure that’s becoming a global movement. Raising both awareness and money in support of cancer treatment Love Hope Strength is changing the world.
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