In the national spotlight, bone marrow transplants save lives lo - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

In the national spotlight, bone marrow transplants save lives locally too

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Robin Roberts on the day of her bone marrow transplant. Robin Roberts on the day of her bone marrow transplant.
Jerry Witthoft received a bone marrow transplant 30 years ago. Jerry Witthoft received a bone marrow transplant 30 years ago.

Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts started her bone marrow transplant Thursday. Robin has been in the hospital for 11 days. Eight days of intense chemotherapy treatment prepared her for transplant day, also known by many bone marrow recipients as their new birthday. And on her new birthday, Robin has a message for all of us. "This journey is as much about the mind as it is the body. Your thoughts. Thoughts are so powerful. You've got to change the way you think in order to change the way you feel. You have to change the way you think in order to change the way you feel."

Robin's journey has brought a lot of attention to bone marrow transplants. Closer to home, Jerry Witthoft of Kronenwetter knows the importance of sharing that gift. "I love my life I was gonna fight for everything I had," Witthoft recalls. It meant a lot." Witthoft  underwent a bone marrow transplant nearly 30 years ago. "The biggest thing is I got to see my kids grow up and see their families."

Jerry was lucky because his brother provided a near perfect marrow match. The first step for many people waiting for a transplant is to find that match. Right now thousands wait for their second chance. "There are many people waiting.. children adults and different ethnicities," said Amy Zondlo with the American Cancer Society. Zondlo organized a "Be the Match" drive in Weston last June. Even she was surprised to find out how easy it was to join the national registry. "It is amazingly simple. You take 4 swabs of your checks and then they send it in and determine if you are an initial match."

If a match is found more testing would be needed before you would have to decide whether to move forward as a living donor and saving a life.

Registration fees on Be the Match are $100. You can find more information on their website, marrow.org.

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