Twelve years ago, Ron Wilson woke up with a swollen neck and knew something was very wrong. After visiting his doctor, he learned that his blood counts were off the charts. Consultation with an oncologist revealed shocking news – Ron was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) & Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a non-curable but treatable form of blood cancer.
For the next 10 years, Ron fought the disease with multiple cycles of chemotherapy. His disease went through cycles of remission and relapse, including an especially severe bout more than two years ago when Ron was told he needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Ron and his family were stunned. Until this point, they had been told they had nothing to worry about as long as his blood counts were kept under control.
Not knowing much about bone marrow transplants and looking for answers, Ron came to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to consult with Vivek Roy, M.D., a hematologist and expert in several types of blood cancers. Dr. Roy explained the transplant process and what Ron could expect. They hoped that one of Ron’s two brothers would be able to donate, but testing showed neither was a match. Ron and Dr. Roy turned to the Be The Match Registry®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. Ron’s family was hopeful, but concerned. How easy would it be to find a match? Would an unrelated donor transplant be as successful as a related donor might have been? Fortunately, only three days later Ron and his family received a call from the Mayo clinic letting them know a match had been found. After more chemotherapy to stabilize his blood counts, Ron received a life-saving bone marrow transplant from a generous 19-year-old stranger.
“Getting the gift of life from a young 19-year-old man that we had never met was wonderful,” Ron said. We always wondered why he was on the list.” When asked what he would say to someone considering joining the Be The Match Registry®, Ron replied, “You could bring new life to a person in need of a bone marrow transplant. I’d also like to explain that it is easier to do than what many people think. My donor did not have to go into to the hip to get the marrow – he donated through IVs in his arm.”
Now two years post-transplant, Ron is back to work and feeling better than ever. He enjoys being able to attend Jaguar games again, though he wishes they would start winning more often! With an upcoming check-up approaching, he hopes to learn from his physician that his disease has remained in remission, and things are looking good.