HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Newswoman Robin Roberts recently made her own headlines - announcing she needed a bone marrow transplant. In Hawaii, the Bone Marrow Registry says an average of 10-20 people are looking for donors. We met one brave woman from the Big Island who's biggest fight has just begun, and she's hoping you can help.
45 year old Sandy Mochida-Rapozo has seen her share of hospitals - getting poked and prodded with each visit.
Sandy is battling her second form of cancer, CML, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. "It's a constant battle to wake up every morning and be grateful that, oh, I'm alive!" Sandy explains. "And then think how am I going to make it through the day?"
Even the simple things are tough. She says it's difficult to muster strength to go the beach or movies and being in crowds threatens her fragile immune system. The last decade has taken its toll on Sandy's body. She's beaten breast cancer, had her gallbladder and a third of her liver removed, and recovered from congestive heart failure. Then, in 2008, leukemia surfaced.
She says of her body, "Nothing seems to work - even though my mind tells it, 'Let this medicine work. Please let this medicine work'. And when it doesn't, I do feel that my body has betrayed me, and it's just tired of fighting."
If this last round of medication doesn't work, she'll need a life-saving bone marrow transplant. The search for a matching donor in Hawaii begins soon.
Sandy's oncologist, Dr. Michelle Miyashiro, explains the importance of donors. "Changing someone's prognosis of six months or less, by doing this procedure, it could offer them an extended period of time - meaning years, 5, 10, plus."
To find matches for Sandy and other patients, family and friends are holding a bone marrow drive in Honokaa on June 23rd – while Sandy dreams of a day when she won't be sick anymore. "Just to get there - to find that peace. I do. I dream that it's going to come true. I don't know if it will. I think that could be my savior."
Right now, 79,000 potential donors are listed on Hawaii's Bone Marrow Registry but more are needed. If you'd like to participate in the bone marrow drive for Sandy Mochida-Rapozo, the event will be held Saturday, June 23rd from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Honokaa High School cafeteria.
To join the "swab mob", do a cotton swab in the cheek, fill out a form, and you are enrolled in Hawaii's registry. And you can participate, even if you're not on the Big Island. Go to marrow.org for more information.