Cancer Sucks! 5k held on campus Sunday


President Maddie Huinker and members of the executive team of Be The Match on campus before the 5k on Sunday. 

Sierra Hoeger

Providing hope for an individual diagnosed with blood cancer is the motivation that drives those who participated in the Cancer Sucks! 5K, which was hosted by the Iowa Marrow Donor Program on Sunday.

The message, “Let’s swab spit” was emblazoned on t-shirts of executive members involved with the Be The Match organization on campus. Swabbing spit through the inside of a cheek can then put one on a registry of 11 million hoping to one day save someone’s life.

Individuals between 18 and 44 years of age are encouraged to become a donor, because due to their young age, they’re more likely to be a match and have a more successful transplant, according to the press release.

“For thousands of patients with leukemia and other blood diseases like sickle cell anemia, a blood stem cell transplant is their only hope,” the press release said.

To join, students can text CY to 61474. From there, they will be sent a cheek swab kit and asked to swab their cheek and send it back. After those steps, they’re officially on the registry and will be contacted in the circumstance that they’re the match for a patient.

If one does end up being a match, the Iowa Marrow Donor Program and Be The Match will then contact them, including details such as transportation, hotel, and hospital locations. Events in the process are all paid for by the organization as well, making it that much easier to join.

“The most common way of donation is called peripheral blood stem cell donation,” Elena Dietz, adviser for the Be The Match club, said. “It’s very similar to donating plasma. That procedure is usually if you donate to an adult. If you donate to a child, you go under anesthesia, and they remove bone marrow from your lower back, kinda where your pelvis makes the heart shape, and then you wake up and it kinda just feels like a bruise.” 

When she was 19, Elena was a donor herself, undergoing anesthesia and donating to a baby boy.

“Be The Match is really cool because it’s a smaller program on campus but it’s such a huge national program,” Maddie Huinker, sophomore and club president, said. “I was a camp counselor at a summer camp for kids with cancer and three of my girls received transplants and are now cancer free and doing great.” 

After a family friend was diagnosed with lymphoma, Huinker was motivated to join the registry, and still awaits news of a potential match.

This is the first year Be The Match has held a Cancer Sucks! 5k on campus, and their main form of awareness comes through tabling at different events such as Dance Marathon, Up ’til Dawn, among other philanthropic and campus events.

“When someone’s choking, everyone in the room knows the heimlich maneuver, so it doesn’t have to be you,” Dietz said about her experience as a donor. “I mean it would be cool if it was, but it doesn’t have to be you. But in this situation, you are the only person on the registry of 11 million that matches this patient. And to have this opportunity gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”