Meet Rachel Neihart
Just over six years ago in August 2006 when I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) a rare blood disorder. My only hope for survival and a cure was a Bone Marrow/Stem-Cell Transplant.
I had the same diagnosis as Robin Roberts, the host of Good Morning America who just received her Stem-Cell Transplant. I was in college at the time when I got the call from my doctors that I had to come home and that it was an emergency. I said goodbye to my friends and sorority sisters and didn't return back to school for another year. Since my bone marrow stopped producing healthy blood cells, I had to have a Bone Marrow/Stem-Cell Transplant urgently.
My brother, Matthew Leisy had been a Bone Marrow Donor before I was diagnosed and was a match for a complete stranger. Unfortunately, he wasn't a match for me, his sister, so we looked to the National Marrow Donor Program to find a match to save my life. I had four potential matches but only one donor stepped up who was ready and willing to help. I had my unrelated Stem-Cell Transplant on October 6th, 2006, the day I received my "gift of new life" from my donor.
A year after the donation I had the privilege to meet the man who saved my life, Michael Carneiro off the train-station in New York while visiting my brother in NYC and a short train ride to my donor's home in Connecticut. When we met it was if the whole world stopped around us. My donor gave me a hope a future and because of him I am alive today.
Since my transplant I have graduated college and I got married to the love of my life, Jim Neihart, who stood by my side during my illness. My donor attended our wedding and we had a special donor-recipient dance that followed the father of the bride and bride and groom dance. Now I am living out my dream job as a Marrow Donor Recruiter for the organization that found my match and saved my life!
I love helping others and after my diagnosis, I decided that I wanted to help advocate and bring awareness to cancer patients and their families. My family and I have been on a long journey together and it has become clear to me that I am blessed to live life each and everyday.
My family and I started the "Thankful for Life Foundation" to help add more donors to the National Marrow Donor Program's Be the Match Registry. After receiving an un-related stem-cell transplant, and recovering a year later, I achieved my goal of continuing my education and received a degree in Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University.
When I returned to college I was passionate about educating others about the National Marrow Donor Program. I am now currently fulfilling my dream of working for the National Marrow Donor Program Organization as a Be the Match Registry Marrow Donor Recruiter.
Every day I share my cancer story with others. I also share pictures that tell my story of when I received my stem-cell transplant as well as pictures of my donor and I meeting for the first time. My donor gave me a cure for my cancer, the reason I am here today, and now I want to help others find the match they need or the support they need to live their lives to the fullest.
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