North Country girl waiting for lifesaving bone marrow transplant

Alyson Stiles

A Northern New York girl is in the fight of her life. We first introduced you to Alyson Stiles on Thursday as she continues her battle against leukemia at the Ronald McDonald House in Syracuse. She and her family are still waiting for one thing that could give her a new chance to live.

The 14-year-old uses drawing as a way to escape. She has been sick for most of her life and wants nothing more than a chance to just be a kid. Diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia as a toddler, she has been in and out of the hospital for years.

The cancer went away, then came back when she was 11. It disappeared again and a few months ago, Alyson learned she was sick yet again. "There's days I admit it does get pretty hard," her father Brian Stiles said. The one person who has never left her side is her father who is responsible for dosing out her medication on a daily basis. Watching his little girl suffer has not been easy. "You've got to keep your emotions in check enough so you can do this because if you don't, you can just be a basket case," he said.

Time is not on their side. Alyson is among the thousands of people in this country waiting for a bone marrow transplant. "Not just for me, but if you do donate bone marrow, you're going to get a match with someone," she said. "Alyson's not the only one out there waiting for a miracle like that...this could be (ours)," her father said.

Finding a match can take years if it ever comes. Because Alyson has Native American blood, that match is even harder. Her father admits they do not have years to wait. "We have months," he said. "This is basically it for us and we know that. We've discussed fall back plans if we don't find a donor."

For now, the waiting game continues as Alyson and her father hold onto hope that the lifesaving match will come to give her a chance to live. "I believe we're gonna find somebody because it's the only thing I can believe."

For people like Alyson with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, there is a cure. But they cannot find it alone. They need to find a donor match for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.

Every year, more than 12,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with a form of cancer. Finding a donor may be their best or only hope of surviving. About 70 percent of people in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. Many turn to "Be The Match," which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.

People like Alyson have difficulty finding a match because there are not enough people on the registry with diverse backgrounds. Those with diverse tissue types have a harder time finding a match. The best chance of finding a match is through someone of your same racial or ethnic background.

Upstate Medical University students are hosting a Be The Match bone marrow donor drive on Thursday, Jan. 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Setnor Academic Building at 766 Irving Avenue in Syracuse.

For more information on how to become a bone marrow donor,

click here


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