As the CEO of Avatar Nutrition, I’ve had the
privilege of serving over 125,000 people trying to do better for their lives by
getting in shape and seeing the difference in their lives. It is a daily
blessing. However, in terms of sheer personal impact, nothing could ever
compare to the journey of when I matched a searching patient with blood cancer
in need of a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant.
June 2016 was one of the most impactful months of my life. I walked through the doors of Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas ready to save someone’s life. The whole story played out in my mind—I could see it as if it were a lucid dream. A family spared tragedy, a full life of possibility opened up, and the deepest bond of friendship gained with another human being. All these images flashed through my mind as I was prepped by the medical staff to have my bone marrow extracted and transplanted into this person in critical need—this miraculous match who would share my very DNA for the rest of their life.
I woke up from the procedure with a sore backside, but as an avid weightlifter, it didn’t feel all that much different from the feeling a day after an intense workout. My marrow was immediately rushed to the patient and the transplant took place, but I wouldn’t know anything about what happened until months later. As each day passed, I wondered how the recipient was doing, I wondered how their family was doing, and more time passed without any updates.
It was now December of 2016, and I was spending
Christmas with my girlfriend’s family in a small rural town in eastern
Washington. As a nationally ranked powerlifter, my girlfriend and her folks
even set up some powerlifting equipment for me to train in their basement next
to the furnace that warmed the house on frozen winter nights.
I was quickly regaining my strength after the procedure and was lifting for that person I had yet to meet. I was training hard to come back stronger than ever and give them an even better story for when we first got to meet. I walked up the creaky wooden stairs from the basement to the kitchen where fresh cookies had just come out of the oven when my phone started buzzing. It was my contact from the donor registry!
This was the call I had been waiting for. It felt like an eternity to come through and here it finally was. I answered with excitement and hope, but as if a window had been left open there seemed—to be a cold wind pass through that chilled me to the bone as the person on the other end of the call told me that my recipient had passed away.
This wasn’t how the story was supposed to end.
I was shaken to the core. There was an indescribable sense of connection I felt with this person who I would never meet, and when that connection faded away, I felt a part of my soul fade away with it. I could only think about the loss that family must be experiencing and that somehow, I could have done something differently, somehow, I had failed this person and all those who loved them.
It took years before the words so many people told me finally reached me. “You gave them hope.” I was fixated on the outcome and nothing else, and as a result I didn’t at the time see exactly what that meant. Hope means you have a fighting chance, it means someone you may never meet cares enough to do something extraordinary that could extend and even save your life. It gives you a reason to keep holding on, and when the darkness of a living nightmare weighs heavily down upon you, hope is the brilliant rays of dawn melting away the despair.
Life isn’t about the destination. Given enough time, it’s the same for every human being who has ever lived. Life is about how we live it. It’s about the infinitely complex qualities of our finite moments and for those battling with blood cancers, those moments can be lived in a completely different light. Despair is replaced with hope, and for many, they are cured and have a full second shot at life. For those who don’t make it, the remainder of their life was experienced in a profoundly different way.
If you join the registry and get all of your friends and family to join with you, and beyond that get them to do the same and keep the pattern going, you WILL be the difference-maker in the lives of the 10,000 patients searching for hope who didn’t find it in 2019.
This is purely a numbers game, and if everyone in the U.S. was on the registry, all of those patients would have been given the gift of hope. If you’re reading this and already on the registry, thank you! Your job isn’t done yet, you need to get your friends and family to do the same. If you’re not on the registry, go ahead and get on it right now! It’s free, you have nothing to lose and you could be responsible for countless lives being given hope, and a true fighting chance at a future.
Your decision to join the registry is living proof that there is still good in the world, thank you.