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well lived

An Open Letter to My Donor

This is what I want the man who saved my life to know.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Tracy Jolly

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To My Anonymous Bone Marrow Donor,

Today was a glorious day. I taught a yoga class and ate a hummus sandwich for lunch. The lettuce was crisp, the pita piping hot and I ate it slowly as I read the newspaper in my sun-drenched kitchen. I laughed with my sister about a story she heard about someone we went to high school with and took my son shopping for a new pair of sneakers. His feet have gotten so big, it takes my breath away when I think about his little baby feet from so long ago. He’s off to college next week, but I’ll never forget his smirk as he strode across the stage to take possession of the diploma he worked so hard to earn. That crooked grin melts my heart.

There was a time when I didn’t think I’d get to see him in cap and gown. No one did. I was in my 40s and I had leukemia. I was told it was serious. I was told that without a bone marrow donor, my chances of survival were very low.

I was so scared when I was diagnosed, I could barely understand what my doctor was telling me. My power of denial was strong. All I kept thinking was, “I don’t have time for this. I have things to do.” What I did understand was that my life was changing in that moment. Forever. “Can you come in for a bone marrow biopsy?” they asked. “No, I have a yoga class to teach,” was all I could think to answer.

But eventually the reality of what was happening settled in. And I was petrified. And angry. And as I sat isolated in the hospital for months getting my treatment, I swore that if I survived and ever got out of that hospital room, I would never set foot in that hospital again.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Tracy Jolly

But then the gift of your bone marrow took hold and I started to get better. And the doctors told me I would be OK. And it eventually became clear that you—my dear, selfless, anonymous donor—saved my life.

I volunteer now on the very same floor where I once lived for more than 70 days straight. I swore I’d never go back, but then I realized that I, too, had a gift to give. So I followed your lead and decided to be there for others who needed me. I hold their hands. I talk to them. I give them hope.

How can I properly thank you for what you have given me? The opportunity to travel, to spend time with my boys, to drink wine and laugh with friends. Maybe my kids will get married. I plan to be there. I want to be a grandmother someday. Thank you so much for being the selfless human being that you are. You are around the same age as my son—but you have more compassion and maturity than just about anyone I know. You gave me, a complete stranger, the gift of seeing another day.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Tracy Jolly

But your generosity doesn’t end there. It lives on in my sons and in my sisters and in my volunteer work. You saved a stranger—which speaks to your pure heart—and you’ve affected so many lives when you anonymously made a donation to save somebody’s mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, teacher, neighbor ...

Photo credit: Courtesy of Tracy Jolly
“But then the gift of your bone marrow took hold and I started to get better.”

I think about you a lot. I wonder what you’re doing today. I wonder if you’re happy. I wonder if you’re living out your dreams. I truly hope so. And please know that because of you, I will now get to live out mine.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Tracy Jolly

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Published October 2nd, 2018

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