The adventure began soon after their meeting. Carmela and Eric Gries met in 1984 while attending college. Not long after they met and became a couple, they decided to take a year off from school to drive across the country and back. They’ve now been married for 31 years, have three beautiful children, and are embracing life to its fullest. And though the journey to get here was a difficult one, Carmela and Eric have always believed that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade – and that’s exactly what they did.
For our 2014 Give Good campaign, Stanford Blood Center partnered with BayKids Studios – a nonprofit who helps children facing long-term hospitalization empower themselves through filmmaking. Our Give Good contributions went toward funding a film made by Danica, a young girl who received a kidney transplant at age nine.
Sunday, October 16, SBC’s Jonathan Bautista and Vanessa Merina joined in celebrating Danica’s (along with seven other children’s) incredible accomplishments as they premiered their films at the annual Lucasfilm Baykids Studio Premiere. The event was quite a success – a red carpet was rolled out to welcome the young filmmakers, a lineup of speakers talked about the process of filmmaking, and a reception was held afterward for the kids and their guests. The children were even given gold statuette awards, just like the Oscars!
Magdalena Cabrera knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the equation. She began donating blood with Stanford Blood Center in 1980. She did so knowing the importance of donating blood products when suddenly the tables turned in May 2013 when she was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer called Mucosal Melanoma. One in 25 million people have it.
In February 2013, she noticed she was feeling very congested and had trouble sleeping because of it. She tried various over the counter medications and nothing seemed to ease the symptoms. After dealing with this for almost three months, she noticed one evening that the right side of her nose and the area under her right eye were swollen. She hoped it was just an allergy. When she pressed against her right nostril it felt spongy. It was only the right side of her face that seemed problematic, too. After consistently downplaying these symptoms for three months, a friend finally convinced her to see a doctor. She made an appointment with an ENT doctor who recommended a CT scan the very next day for what appeared to be an inflamed polyp.
After reviewing the CT scan the doctor said that the mass seemed to be quite large and that he would need to do a biopsy immediately. On May 16th, the diagnosis was confirmed, and her fears realized. It was not an inflamed nasal polyp but mucosal melanoma. Melanoma, both cutaneous and mucosal, is known to be radiation resistant and chemotherapy resistant. Surgery is the treatment of choice. She opted to have surgery at Stanford, May 21st. They were hopeful that surgery had seemed to have done the trick even though the tumor board was split 50/50 on recommending more treatment. The final vote was cast by the Chair of Radiation Oncology for no further treatment at that time but that it was essential that she be followed closely and that she not miss a single check up.
Magdalena was feeling as though she had dodged a major bullet and continued to go for her ENT scopes every six weeks. Everything appeared to be healing nicely until five months later, the night before Thanksgiving. At her appointment that afternoon, her doctor saw something “suspicious” that would need to be biopsied. It took a week to get those results and the news was not good. It was a recurrence.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and is often symbolized by the widely recognized pink ribbon. First handed out to survivors at the Susan G. Komen New York City Race for the Cure in 1991, pink ribbons now seem to be everywhere you look during the month of October. They help raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer, while promoting early detection, and helping to raise funds for research.
According to the CDC, breast cancer is the most common form of the disease among American women after skin cancer, affecting more than 200,000 women each year. Stanford Blood Center (SBC) feels deeply connected to the cause, particularly because many breast cancer patients require blood products during treatment. Many cancer treatments cause low blood counts, which can result in life-threatening infection or bleeding; so, SBC works diligently to collect safe blood products for any patient that may need it.
As girls growing up in Menlo Park, Betsy McBride and her sister used to accompany their father when he donated blood at Stanford Blood Center (SBC). Betsy took the habit to heart, continuing to donate for SBC when she could. But until August 26, she had no idea how much blood donors would one day mean to her personally.
On that day, Betsy and her husband Steve, parents of two precious children – strawberry-blonde Ashlyn and curly-haired Austin – received news that no parents should have to hear. Their little boy, Austin, just three years old at the time, had been in and out of the doctor’s office for a few weeks. Everyone suspected antibiotic-resistant ear and sinus infections and inflamed adenoids. On August 26, though, they noticed that their happy, chatty boy’s smile looked lopsided. He wound up in the ER getting a CT scan, and the results were devastating: Austin had a tumor pressing up against his brain. Two days later, doctors at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital diagnosed him with Stage IV Burkitt’s Lymphoma, an aggressive, but treatable, cancer.