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Featured sustainer: Chris Syrek

Chris along alongside his wife and kids

Chris Syrek doesn’t have one good reason for becoming a Be The Match® monthly contributor—he has three.

In 1988, his dad was diagnosed with a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a group of disorders caused by blood cells that are poorly formed or don’t work properly. The only treatment is a blood stem cell transplant.

When Chris’ dad’s MDS progressed to leukemia four years later, he had a blood stem cell transplant from his sister—sadly, he didn’t survive. “The doctors said there was no familial risk—that some people just get cancer and there was nothing to be concerned about,” Chris recalled.

However, in 2015, at 24 years old, Chris’ brother, Greg, was also diagnosed with leukemia. Testing revealed that Greg had an inherited genetic defect that made him more susceptible to blood cancers. And after getting tested himself, Chris learned he did as well.

While Chris had no symptoms, he knew his genetics made him susceptible to MDS and leukemia. A bone marrow biopsy later confirmed he did in fact have MDS. “It stops you dead in your tracks,” he said. “Your life and focus take on a whole new aspect.”

After seven years with mild symptoms, Chris began experiencing infections and complications with his immune system. So, he and his family moved from Washington D.C. to eastern Connecticut to live with his mom and closer to the transplant center in Boston. In fall of 2022, he received his blood stem cell transplant—and his second chance at life—from a selfless stranger from Germany.

The fact the Chris, Greg and their father all received a blood stem cell transplant is what inspired Chris to become a regular Be The Match monthly contributor.

“We have a bit of a unique story as we have a genetic mutation that makes us susceptible to blood cancers and myelodysplastic syndromes,” Chris shared.  “To say that I’m a supporter would be an understatement—I’m living proof how donor matches and scientific advances save lives.”

Chris hopes his monthly financial contributions will help improve transplant outcomes by supporting research to reduce complications like graft-versus-host disease. He knows how lucky he and his brother were to find their donor match, and knows his monthly gifts will help other patients find theirs.

“My brother and I benefited from the work that has been done over the last 30 years to increase the donor registry so that everyone who needs a transplant can access a suitable donor. Transplants have come a long way since my dad went through his—and those advances are possible through funding and research and great organizations like Be the Match.”

Chris is looking forward to his milestone 100 days post-transplant when he can move back home and get back to a sense of normalcy. In the meantime, he encourages others to donate to Be The Match—and most importantly, to join the registry. 

You can provide cures all year long just like Chris. Start your monthly gift to Be The Match in any amount today. 

Chris with his brother Greg who is also a transplant recipient