Local woman battles cancer, works to save lives of others | KOB 4
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Local woman battles cancer, works to save lives of others

Morgan Aguilar
March 07, 2018 10:37 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - An Albuquerque woman is searching for cheeks to swab in order to save lives, including hers.

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“I'm asking the community for their spit,” said Lan Sena, who is battling stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

She was first diagnosed in 2011, and after chemo therapy and two years of remission, she has relapsed for the second time.

KOB first talked to Sena when she was fighting for legislation to expand Medicaid in New Mexico.

Now she's fighting to expand the International Bone Marrow Donor Registry.  The second time she relapsed, Sena was able to serve as her own bone marrow donor. This time, she must rely on an outside donor, and has been searching for a match since July not only for herself, but for others conducting the same search.

"14,000 people a year need a bone marrow transplant and half of them die because they can't find a donor," said Sena.

Sena says it’s difficult to find donors because the match has to be so exact, and because there just aren’t enough people willing to donate.

“People think it's very painful,” said Sena. “Really, it's not, especially since I've gone through the process and I know what it's like.”

She says 80 percent of the time, it’s the same process she went through when she was essentially donating to herself. She says it’s similar to donating plasma in that you lie in a chair for about four hours, except with an IV in both arms instead of one.

According to Sena, it is more time consuming than painful.

"It is 20 to 30 hours over the course of four to six weeks," said Sena.

There is one method that involves an out-patient surgical procedure. Doctors go through the pelvic bone to extract a donor’s stem cells. However, Sena says that is primarily for babies and children and doesn’t happen as often.

To be added to the registry, donors need to be between the ages of 18 and 44. They will do a 15-second cheek swab and have a candidate fill out some paperwork. Even after that, only one out of every 430 people who submits their swabs is a match. Sena says it’s extremely important that those who get the call are committed.

"If you are not committed all the way and you back out at the last minute, that person is most likely going to pass away," said Sena.

Sena is hosting a donor drive to swab as many cheeks as possible on Saturday at the Albuquerque Convention Center from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

“Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer and so it's really important to increase this registry and be the cure for someone else,” said Sena.

Credits

Morgan Aguilar

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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