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Former Concord woman relying on strangers to save her life

New Hampshire Sunday News

March 22. 2014 6:59PM

Ever dreamed of curing cancer?

You could get your chance.

Concord native Sarah (Carley) Thompson, a mother of two young boys, has acute myeloid leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.

On Tuesday, April 1, a bone marrow drive in Thompson's honor - dubbed "Get Swabbed for Sarah" - will be held during a Wellness Fair at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Thompson's mother, Deb Carley, was a longtime director of NHTI's Learning Center before she retired last July.

Thompson, 37, now lives in Georgetown, Maine, with her husband, John, and their sons, Wallace, 8, and Lysander, 4.

She said it's strange and humbling to have to rely on strangers to find the match that could save her life.

"It causes some anxiety to think about being just totally dependent on this process. But on the other hand, it blows my mind that they come through over and over again.

"People do this, and give this gift."

To join the Be The Match bone marrow registry, all it takes is a cheek swab.

If you're found to be a potential match with Thompson or someone like her, there are additional tests to check for compatibility.

Thompson, who has been undergoing chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant, hopes to have a match by April, when doctors hope to do the transplant. And here's where that cure for cancer comes in.

"This is one of the only situations in which oncologists will use the word 'cure,'" she said. "You can cure somebody of cancer by donating marrow.

"That's huge. People are always talking about a cure for cancer. It's a buzz phrase, and a bone marrow transplant is a cure for cancer."

Twenty-eight years ago, Sarah Carley was one of "Christa's Kids," the class of Concord third-graders who went to Florida to watch the space shuttle Challenger launch with their classmate's mother, Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe, on board. Shortly after liftoff, the shuttle exploded.

And while some feared that witnessing the tragedy would traumatize the youngsters, they turned out to be more resilient than some adults expected.

Now Thompson sees that same resiliency in her own children as they deal with her illness.

Thompson was first diagnosed with AML about three years ago; she underwent chemotherapy and went into remission. She went for twice-yearly blood tests to make sure the cancer hadn't return.

In January, the tests revealed the leukemia was back. And this time, the treatment is a bone marrow transplant.

Health Concord