During her freshman year at the University of Missouri, a Hannibal native made a decision that would change the life of someone she hadn’t yet met.
Candice Howe didn’t like needles, but she wanted to donate blood to make a difference for others in need. During the October Homecoming blood drive of her freshman year, Howe discussed the possibility of becoming a bone marrow donor with officials at the event. When she learned that less than one percent of patients find a suitable match, she knew what she wanted to do.
"Who was I to say no in that situation," Howe, a Hannibal native, said.
Freshman year turned to senior year, and Howe received an email in August, alerting her that a match for her bone marrow was located — a patient with Lymphoma. Howe remembered her eyes tearing up as she read the news.
She took a blood test to confirm her marrow was the best match for the patient. Howe waited anxiously for two months as the process continued.
But at the two-month mark, she received disheartening news — the patient or doctor opted not to proceed with the transplant. Howe’s disappointment vanished two weeks later, with an emailed request for the transplant to continue.
Howe completed final testing and supplements, accompanied by her mother and grandmother. The six-and-a-half day procedure this winter included twice-daily injections of a bone marrow-stimulant called filgrastin. Howe said the drug freed up stem cells from her marrow, allowing them to be removed through her blood. In the years before this procedure, doctors removed marrow directly from a donor’s pelvis.
The five days of injections made Howe sore throughout her body, and she felt like she had the flu. But she said the feelings of discomfort were minor, especially compared with the difference her bone marrow could make for the patient.
Due to confidentiality agreements, Howe hasn’t met the patient, and the patient doesn’t know her. But after a year, they have the option of communicating or meeting in person — a moment Howe looks forward to. No matter what, she knew that her actions made a difference in someone’s life. She wouldn’t hesitate to donate again.
"I knew I had to to this, and it was mind over matter," she said.
Howe encouraged people to look into registering to become a bone marrow donor. She said the registration process is easy, and the potential is far-reaching to help patients who are diagnosed with blood diseases or blood cancer once every three minutes.
"I feel like it’s your duty," she said.
Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at email@example.com