I would like to introduce you to Camryn Hunter. I have never met her, but she has changed my life. It is my hope that after reading this, she will have changed yours as well. While I have never physically met Camryn, I feel like I know her.
On March 17th 2011 Camryn was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. It was shortly after this diagnosis that I heard about this amazing little girl. I went to middle school with Camryn’s mom Michele but hadn’t spoken since then. I learned about Camryn’s battle through mutual friends we shared on Facebook and watched hundreds of people mobilize to offer support. I wanted to be one of them.
A Facebook group called A Prayer for Camryn was started where updates on her battle were posted regularly, and people could post words of support and encouragement for the Hunter’s.
At first I watched from the sidelines, not sure what words I could put together that would provide any benefit to Camryn and her family. I checked the group faithfully to hear updates. I smiled and cried happy and sad tears at the poignant updates from Michele and photos of Camryn she posted.
I was amazed and humbled by Michele’s strength and ability to support and inspire others while going through this difficult time. And I learned very quickly that Camryn wasn’t just any little girl. She was a warrior, whose spirit could not be broken.
Eventually I found the courage to send Michele a message – offering any support I could provide – which wasn’t much, I’m afraid. But the Hunter family was never far from my thoughts and in my prayers everyday.
Camryn spent several months undergoing chemotherapy. Through-out this time Michele shared photos and stories about Camryn that really resonated with me. Camryn was always smiling and happy. Michele was always positive and inspiring.
And then the post we had all been praying for showed up on the group’s Facebook page – one word from Michele…….REMISSION! Camryn had done it! She had beaten this brutal disease. I am sure a lot of happy tears fell on the keyboards of Camryn’s supporters that day.
Unfortunately, the happiness was short-lived and Camryn relapsed in February 2012. This meant more chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant was necessary to save her life. Chemo commenced and she went into remission – shortly after she received her bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, Camryn’s father Ray was enough of a match to be her donor.
Only 30 per cent of those in need of a bone marrow transplant find a donor within their immediate family. The other 70 per cent have to depend on a volunteer stem cell donor to survive their illness.
In spite of having an eligible donor within the family, the Hunters have been raising awareness with their nearly 1000 group members on Facebook about OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network. They are encouraging people to get swabbed and register with the network – and many are doing just that.
Finally, something I could do to honour Camryn’s battle. So I did it. It took about 40 seconds. The inside of each cheek had to be swabbed, a form filled out, ten knowledge questions answered and voila, I am one of the 317,000 Canadians registered to donate bone marrow should I be a match for someone in need.
Though I am somewhat ashamed to admit it, before learning about Camryn, I had never even thought of it. Not because I wouldn’t be willing to donate, but because I had no idea how easy it was to register as a donor. I also think there is a great deal of misconception surrounding the donation process.
Donating bone marrow is a fairly simple procedure. Most donors go home the same day – and most side effects (usually mild) are gone within 24-48 hours. After donating his bone marrow for Camryn Ray said, “I would definitely do this for a stranger, it was remarkably easy and pain free. I didn’t even need to fill my prescription for pain meds.” In fact, within hours of his surgery at Princess Margaret Hospital he was over at Sick Kids watching staff hang his bag of marrow for his little girl.
There are currently more than 950 Canadians waiting for a bone marrow transplant. You could be the next person to save someone’s life. All you have to do to register is visit Canadian Blood Services website at www.blood.ca, click on OneMatch and follow the three steps. It’s that simple to register to save a life. Currently the greatest demand is for ethnic males 17-35 to register.
Camryn is just over a month post-transplant and is doing well. The latest results show that her own bone marrow is growing back, which is concerning because it could be the unhealthy stuff. Doctors are taking measures to prevent its growth, but that does come with side effects. Soon, she will be through another leg of her battle.
Life is busy and it’s easy to make excuses not to register. Maybe if you haven’t been touched by someone like Camryn, you aren’t as motivated to join the donor network. That’s why I wanted to introduce you to her. Hospital News reader, meet Camryn – an inspiration and warrior.
Camryn has opened my eyes to so many things – I no longer sweat the small stuff, I stop and appreciate the little things that matter and I am a strong advocate for the OneMatch Network. I am grateful to her and the Hunter family for that. If Camryn can be a brave little warrior, we all can – by registering on the network and maybe being the match someone needs to beat this disease.
Thank you little warrior.