Transplant recipient, Jennifer, with her husband, Colton
Jennifer Lee had always been a dancer and athletic, so when she started getting winded and light-headed, she knew something was wrong.
After several trips to urgent care, her blood was drawn and Jennifer was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant to save her life. She was just 24 years old and had dreams of becoming a San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleader.
Fortunately, her marrow donor match was found—in Hong Kong. And Jennifer received her marrow transplant and recently celebrated her eighth “re-birthday” (eight years post-transplant).
Showing cancer who’s boss
Jennifer’s husband, Colton Kerrigan, said Jennifer’s leukemia diagnosis was the best and worst thing that happened to them. “It really reframed our mindset and prioritized what really matters in life,” he said.
“My wife is a go-getter,” Colton said. “Whatever she puts her mind to, she does.” And Jennifer wasn’t about to let leukemia stop her from achieving her dream of becoming a San Francisco 49er Gold Rush cheerleader. “That really kept her going—her desire to try out,” he said.
Having lost muscle mass and flexibility, Jennifer put in grueling hours of practice in the dance studio. Just four years post-transplant, she tried out for the team. While she didn’t make it the first year, the following year she did. She was on the dance team for three years before retiring this year.
Paying it forward
During her transplant journey, Jennifer received a grant to help out with groceries and basic living expenses. At the time, she and Colton vowed they would pay it forward—and then some.
“For the rest of our lives, Be The Match® will be part of our giving strategy since we received so much from this organization,” Colton said. “Any way we can help—monetarily or with time—we want others to have the same opportunities as Jennifer had.”
Not only did Jennifer use her cheerleading platform to raise awareness for the need for bone marrow donors, Jennifer and Colton also became Be The Match monthly sustainers. They hope their regular financial gifts will help patients with expenses not covered by insurance—like travel expenses to and from the transplant center, meals and parking.
“If we can influence even just one person to sign up for the registry, donate or get involved, then we’ll know we’ve made a difference,” said Colton.
You can be one of our most reliable supporters like Jennifer and Colton. Just decide how big or small you want your gift to be and each month it will be deducted automatically (you never have to think about it!). Saving lives has never been so easy. Start your monthly giving today.
Jennifer dancing on the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleading team