I have been a blood donor since 1983, when I became a ‘Youngblood’ at Illinois State University. It was a natural thing to do, since my mother had been giving for as long as I can remember. When I became a teacher and a student council advisor, I was glad to be able to introduce young people to giving through school blood drives in Beloit, Wisconsin.
In 1999, we had our first daughter, Laurel (pictured, on left). Very soon after (or it seemed so – 2001), when we were six months along expecting our second daughter, Annika, I found a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ). I had two lumpectomies after she was born (always looking for clean margins) and then 30 sessions of radiation. The next year, when our girls were 1 ½ and 3 years old, I was told my cancer had recurred. I had more procedures in an attempt to ‘get it all,’ ultimately having a mastectomy, and then subsequent attempts at reconstruction. After a total of eight surgeries – and countless pints of blood (thank you donors!) – I have been cancer-free for over 10 years. Now I am happy to be back donating blood regularly with the blood center.
Knowing the vital work the blood center does, I was thrilled last year when Laurel, then a freshman, decided to join the blood drive committee at her high school. She knows firsthand from all of my experiences what a generous, selfless gift blood donors provide. I have no doubt that as soon as she turns 16, she will be joining the family tradition of giving … though we’ll probably have to hold her hand!