Skip Navigation

Featured fundraiser: Brad Free

Brad alongside Vanessa and their baby girl, Siena
Brad at the finish line of a 10K run, alongside Vanessa and their baby girl, Siena

During the pandemic, not only were Brad and Vanessa forced to postpone their wedding, but Vanessa was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare and chronic blood cancer. She had been living with essential thrombocythemia since she was 16, but it wasn’t until August 2020 that the cancer progressed.

Her doctors told her that a stem cell transplant was her best option. Vanessa’s sister was a half (haplo) match, which made her an okay, but not ideal, candidate. Fortunately, a more suitable unrelated donor match was found for Vanessa on the Be The Match Registry®.

The impact of the diagnosis

Having just moved to Chicago from Canada, Vanessa and Brad were looking forward to starting their lives together. Yet, their world turned upside down with the news of the diagnosis.

Right away, Vanessa had to start getting blood work done twice a week, taking medicine daily and seeing a specialist every few months. They were unsure if having a baby would still be an option for them and had to do many consultations to weigh the risks. After careful consideration, they decided to move forward with trying to conceive and in February 2022 welcomed their first baby girl, Siena, into the world.

And yet—amidst the blessings and hope they cling to—Vanessa’s diagnosis plays a very real role in their lives. “It’s always lingering in the background. We can’t just forget about it because we’re constantly going to the doctors,” Brad said.

Additionally, the light at the end of the tunnel in all of this—receiving a stem cell transplant—does not have a definitive timeline which brings difficulties of its own. “We are in a watch-and-wait period, a grey area. We have to watch my blood levels and it could be months or years from now that I receive a stem cell transplant,” Vanessa said.

A desire to give back

Having picked up running a few years ago, Brad decided to lace up his running shoes and fundraise for Be The Match® as he runs the 2022 Medtronic TC 10 Mile October 1 (not to mention, he’s running the Chicago Half Marathon the week before too!). He wants to bring hope to others struggling through the same thing Vanessa is. “I hope someone else in the same situation can find a match,” he shared.

It’s been powerful for Brad and Vanessa to see their friends and family come together to support their cause. In just a couple hours, they had already raised $1,600 and since then have well surpassed that!

“It’s nice when people step up and realize that $50 or $100 may not be a lot to them, but it could help save a life,” Brad said.

In addition to raising money, Brad and Vanessa are helping to bring hope to patients in other ways as well. They have convinced many of their friends to join the Be The Match Registry and are actively wanting to spread the word to others.

Through it all, Brad wants to empower others to embrace the life they’ve been given, stating, “Your life can change quickly, so make sure to make the most of every day.”

You can support Brad or start your own fundraiser today!