Cancer survior organizes bone marrow sign-up event

Diane Metz, of Cape May Court House, here with her granddaughter Lindsay Kalish, 8, got a bone marrow transplant from a donor in Germany. She is now free of leukemia and wants to encourage others to register to become donors.

Former critcal care nurse Diane Metz, of Cape May Court House, is now free of the acute myelogenous leukemia she was diagnosed with in 2011. And a bone marrow donor in Germany made her recovery possible, she said.

She had her transplant Aug. 19, 2011, at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del. This year, the day before her one-year anniversary, she is holding a "Be the Match" sign-up event for potential bone marrow and stem cell donors at the Stone Harbor Yacht Club.

"It's a lifesaving thing," she said. It involves filling out some paperwork, doing a Q-Tip swab of the inside of the cheek and mailing it to the National Bone Marrow Donor Program.

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Metz is grateful her donor took the time to register.

After two rounds of chemotherapy, Metz's doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant. But family members weren't good matches. When they looked into the national registry, they found three matches. But only one was the best, hitting 10 of 10 markers, she said.

That donor was from Germany.

"It's really a worldwide matching program," said Metz, 69.

She calls the transplant process miraculous.

It took only about a half hour, she said, and she only got about 4 ounces of donated marrow, through an intravenous line in her chest.

"It goes into the IV, and knows to go to your bone marrow and start growing," she said. DNA testing showed her marrow is now 99 percent donor marrow.

She said donors of Asian, African American, Native American and mixed races are particularly needed.

Metz is free of leukemia, but like most recipients, must continue to take immune suppression drugs to keep her body from fighting the donation.

She said she chose the yacht club for the event because several people at the club have had bone marrow transplants, including two former commodores. In July there was a fundraiser there for sailing instructor Austin Wortley, who had a double stem cell transplant at Childrens Hospital in Philadelphia for his Hodgkin's disease and is doing well, she said.

The rules of the program require donors and recipients to wait a year after the transplant. Then, if both are willing, they can be given each other's names and contact information.

"With the agreement of donor - and I'm certainly in agreement - we can contact each other," she said. But she might need the help of a friend who speaks German to compose an email.

Metz is a golfer who was at the top of her game right before she was diagnosed, and she took a year off from the sport for treatment. She is now playing again, and hopes to get back to her former ability, she said.

She retired from Cape Regional Medical Center in 2007 after 40 years of nursing, and is now the faith community nurse at her Quaker Meeting in Upper Township. She visits members in the hospital, answers medical questions and runs health fairs and educational events.

Husband Robert retired in 1996 as supervisor of curriculum instruction for Middle Township schools. He was also in the Army National Guard and Reserve and retired as full colonel after 34 years, she said.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:


Be the Match

Sign up for the National Marrow Donor Program at the Yacht Club of Stone Harbor, 9001 Sunset Drive, Stone Harbor, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Healthy people ages 18 to 60 are asked to sign up. No preregistration required. Monetary donations also needed.

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