When most students think about enrolling for their college classes they don’t picture it happening in a hospital with their advisor lying in the hospital bed but this was just one of the many things that Pratt Community College ag instructor Lori Montgomery did while battling with cancer.
In August of 2005, Montgomery was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a cancer originating from white blood cells called lymphocytes. While she battled cancer for five years, Montgomery continued to work and be as active as possible.
She went through as much chemotherapy as her body could physically handle, a transplant and drugs that have yet to be approved by the Federal Drug Administration, all while teaching.
“I use myself as an example that this isn’t the end of the world,” she said. “My children and students will be stronger for knowing this is what can happen in the real world.”
In 2010 she received a stem cell transplant from a male donor in Germany and has since been given a clean bill of health.
Montgomery’s match was set up through Be the Match (BTM), a bone marrow stem cell organization.
Each year more than 12,000 people with blood cancer need a transplant and 70 percent of them do not have a matching donor in their family.
Knowing this information and wanting to be involved in a cause that is bigger than themselves, PCC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society decided to host a bone marrow drive on April 14, where students and community members can register to join the national donor registry.
“We hope to not only save lives through transplants, but also to promote awareness of blood cancers, which aren’t made as public as some of the other cancers like breast cancer,” said Leighanne Dean, PTK advisor.
The drive will be held in the Upper Commons at PCC from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will take anyone between the ages of 18 and 44. Participants get their cheek swabbed and fill out health information for screening.
According to Montgomery, the organization is always looking for a wide variety of ethnicities to choose from in order to find a good match for everyone. They look at 10 different areas to match; Montgomery and her match were the same on all of them besides that she is a O- and the donor was an O+.
“We were so close to being the same, the doctor asked if I was from Germany,” she said.
Montgomery said donating is no different than giving blood and that most people who give are at work the next day.
After getting the transplant, Montgomery sent the gentleman a letter thanking him, even though she didn’t know his name and had to go through BTM.
“Getting the transplant didn’t cure me but it kept me alive, which at the time was huge,” she said.
After having the transplant Montgomery regained her immune system so wasn’t sick as often, and eventually had a drug trial done at the University of Nebraska, which is what cured her.
People in the database are able to decline if they get the call and have had a life change and are unable to give at that time.
Along with having the bone marrow drive, PTK is also having a penny war and all money earned will go to the BTM.
They are also asking everyone who comes to the drive bring a $5 donation for cost of processing their information, though it isn’t required.
To find out more information about the BTM organization and what other conditions there are to being on the donor list, go to bethematch.org or call 800.627.7692.