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Bone marrow donors sought

INDIANOLA — Cathy Cuenin knows three years can feel like 300 while waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Five years ago this month Cuenin had both her lungs replaced to curb a rare, progressive lung disease. She was given a 50 percent chance of surviving five years, a fact she doesn’t dwell on.

“I got to come back from not being here,” said Cuenin, who spent three years awaiting a donor match.

Next week, Cuenin and fellow Indianola resident Sue Hancock will host a donor drive to help others awaiting transplants.

The women will be registering potential bone marrow donors on the afternoon of Dec. 2. They organized the event in honor of their friend Dan Nichols of Indianola, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in July and needs a bone marrow stem cell treatment.

The donor drive will take place 3-7 p.m. in the Suquamish United Church of Christ.

Nichols owns a woodworking shop in Suquamish and has volunteered with North Kitsap School District. His wife Beth said Nichols has been through four rounds of chemotherapy and several platelet and blood cell transplants at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Doctors said Nichols’ best chance of survival will be a bone marrow stem cell transplant.

Last Friday the family received good news. Doctors had found a likely match for Nichols.

“As far as we know we’re proceeding,” Beth Nichols said.

Cuenin and Hancock’s bone marrow registration event may not help Nichols directly, they hope to add more Kitsap residents to the national registry of potential donors

“In this season of giving, I thought, what a good thing to do,” Hancock said.

Both were recently trained to register potential donors and are working with Puget Sound Blood Center on the drive.

To register, potential donors fill out paperwork and submit a mouth swab for DNA testing. No needles involved, Hancock said. Adults ages 18 to 60 can register. Registration is free.

Millions of U.S. residents are registered as bone marrow donors but numbers are important. The chances of two random people being a genetic match for a transplant are less than one in 20,000.

Beth Nichols said she’s glad Cuenin and Hancock have been inspired to register more donors.

“It’s really positive what they’re doing to help other families,” she said.

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