African American patients have only a 23% chance of finding a donor – Let’s Change That

Be the Match Needs African Americans To Register:

Tiffany Davis’s Life Depends On It

Like most people, Tiffany Davis hoped she’d never have to battle cancer. But now she’s facing her second battle with the deadly disease. The thirty-two-year-old from Miami, FL graduated with honors in the top 10 percent of her class from Miami Jackson Sr. High and went on to Florida A&M University to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration.

Before fighting cancer became her “career,” Davis was a Financial Counselor at a local hospital. “I have started some entrepreneurial projects. I’m a brand ambassador for a health and wellness company as well as a Certified Lash Technician and looking into going into beauty school.” But cancer doesn’t care about any of Davis’ credentials or successes. Cancer is an undiscriminating beast.

Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was twenty-eight-years-old. It was December 19, 2014. She discovered a lump under her left armpit, and due to her family history of breast cancer, she told her gynecologist that she was concerned. That’s when she found out that what she feared was true.

Getting through chemo, double mastectomy and radiation was only possible with the support of her family and friends and even strangers, “Once I decided to share my journey through social media, I received a lot of support. My family and friends also accompanied me at every chemo appointment. I never had to go through any of this alone.” Davis says her family is everything to her. “They are super supportive. I am the oldest of three siblings from my dad and I’m my mom’s only baby.”

“Once I decided to share my journey through social media, I received a lot of support. My family and friends also accompanied me at every chemo appointment. I never had to go through any of this alone.” -Tiffany Davis 

She beat breast cancer and dared to breathe again. Then during a routine blood workup, her breast oncologist delivered a devastating blow – a leukemia diagnosis. On a January 2017 visit her labs were normal, but by June they were not. After repeated tests, a PET scan, blood work and finally a bone marrow biopsy, it was discovered that it was Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). This was July 31, 2017.

The AML was caused by the chemotherapy treatment she endured during her bout with breast cancer. It was something Davis had been concerned about since her first cancer diagnosis. When she beat cancer the first time Davis said she felt relieved, but was fearful of reoccurrence. “I tried to do holistic remedies to keep me as healthy as possible. I believe in doing modern medicine in combination with holistic remedies.”

Finding out later that she had leukemia she said, quite simply– sucked. “I couldn’t believe that I would have to endure this for a second time.” She had witnessed other women who had had recurrences and hadn’t survived. It was terrifying to watch women so young die from this disease. “Even though mine wasn’t a reoccurrence, I knew what difficulties I may face. I had already gone through so much at a young age, but as I mentioned before I don’t back down easily.” Davis knew what had to be done and if chemo treatment was the plan of action, she was going to do it.

“In my heart, I know that everything will work itself out" - Tiffany Davis (Photo Courtesy, Tiffany Davis)

Davis has moments when she doesn’t know if she’s strong enough or has the patience to wait for good news. She gets tired and faces disappointment again and again, but there is no other option than to keep fighting, “In my heart, I know that everything will work itself out.” Sharing her story with others uplifts her and is a part of her healing. “There are so many people going through so many things in life. I’m just brave enough to share mine.” Having an amazing support system is key. My family and friends are the bomb if I may say so myself.”

If you ask Davis to describe herself, one word rings loud and clear – resilient. “Despite what I am going through I still push through adversity.” She has faith that this is just one chapter of her journey and does not  define who she is as a person. “I continue to strive and go after the things I want. I’m a very hard worker and don’t believe in handouts so I continue to push myself to be a better version of me.” Yet, strength to push through what Davis has lived through might seem impossible to others.

A bone marrow transplant from a genetically matched donor is Davis’ best shot at survival. What she needs now is a match, and finding one for her is no easy task. African Americans have a greater genetic diversity than other populations around the world, which makes finding the right match particularly difficult.

What makes the search even more of a challenge is the fact that so few members of the African American community sign up and register on the Be The Match registry. Because of that, African American patients have only a 23 percent chance of finding a matched donor, whereas the chance of a match for Caucasians is nearly three times that. The solution is singular and simple, more African Americans have to step up and join. 

“African American patients have only a 23 percent chance of finding a matched donor, whereas the chance of a match for Caucasians is nearly three times that.”

Raising awareness around this and other ways people can support those with cancer has become Davis’s mission. Cancer changed her, and she wants to change that the African American Community is under-represented in the life-saving registry. “Being able to help others, despite me fighting my own battles,” has been the most inspirational part of this otherwise harrowing journey.

Davis says it’s imperative that people sign up to be a part of the registry as an African American. “There is not much diversity within the registry so it makes it hard to find that perfect match or a match at all,” Davis explains. “Imagine all the people that I know that are not a part of the registry. You can potentially be a match. Be a match and save a life.”

She believes that lack of education about what being a donor means and how easily one can donate is the reason that more people don’t register. “Many people think that they have to go through this invasive process and that’s not the case.” A simple swab is all it takes. No cutting or needles is required.

People can register as marrow donors online on Tiffany’s behalf at: https://join.bethematch.org/tiffstrong

Jenny Block

JENNY BLOCK is a frequent contributor to a number of publications from Huffington Post to Playboy, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, and O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm.

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