BUFFALO, NY - In conjunction with their home meet on Saturday, April 30, the University at Buffalo track and field program will be hosting a Be The Match Registry drive to support former UB track standout Leah Whitman, who is battling cancer. Be The Match Registry is a bone marrow registry service that helps pair donors with those who are in need of a bone marrow transplant as they battle life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
Wightman, a 2013 UB graduate, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in early March. She is currently waiting for a bone marrow match as she continues to fight AML. She has appreciated all the support from her UB family as she continues to battle AML like a Bull would.
"Bulls are known for strength and grit and don't usually need a bone marrow transplant, but I do," Wightman said reflecting on her experience battling AML. "Without bone marrow donors, thousands of people like me cannot survive. What my UB family is doing with Be The Match has touched me deeply and made me prouder than ever before to be a UB Bull."
It is quick and simple to register with Be The Match. The registry drive will be open 11:00 am – 3:00 pm during the UB Invite. A Be The Match representative will be on-site to answer any questions. Registration is free for those 18-44 years old, while it costs $100 to register for individuals between 45-60 years old.
The registration process involves completing a form and having a saliva swab taken. The saliva swab is sent to the Be The Match center, analyzed, and the individual is placed into the registry file. The chance to becoming a match is 1 in 540. For those who are a match, 95 percent of the donors complete a stem cell donation through a blood draw. In very rare cases, usually only with rare pediatric cancers, actual bone marrow is taken from the donor. The costs related to the transplant are never incurred to the donor, but covered by Be The Match or the donor's insurance. More information on the marrow donation and transplant process can be found here.
As Wightman looks to "win" her battle with cancer, she has progressed well since starting treatment at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. She left Roswell on Monday after her counts were very good and the recovery has been apparent. Now Wightman and her family wait for a match, so the marrow transplant process can begin. More on Wightman's story with frequent updates can be found here.
Head coach Vicki Mitchell fondly remembers her first meeting with Wightman and her parents during a recruiting trip. Mitchell asked Wightman what motivated the then high school runner and her answer still resonates with Mitchell to this day.
"I need to win", Wightman answered Mitchell's question.
With your help, Leah will win.