Life has a way of putting things into perspective. When my four children were babies and toddlers, I thought being a stay-at-home mom was a heroic calling. Then, when I went back to work, I thought being a working mother was a heroic calling. Recently, I’ve become convinced that I’ve never done anything even close to being heroic. In fact, I don’t even know very many heroic people.
Or at least that’s what I thought, until I heard that Anthony Mastrianni’s cancer had returned and he needs a bone marrow transplant to save his life. I’ve known Anthony since our 19-year-old sons played basketball together in third grade. I’ve also known him as a soft-spoken, intelligent, Christian man who left a career in engineering to become a middle school teacher. In the 10 years I’ve known Anthony, I’ve only heard him mention his cancer once or twice. In fact, I didn’t even know until last week that he is now battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for the third time. Yes, I do know a heroic person — I know Anthony Mastrianni.
After I read about Anthony’s need for a bone marrow transplant, I realized that I know another heroic person. In 2007, my husband learned that his boss’ 20-year-old son had donated bone marrow for a 57-year-old woman he didn’t even know.
Upon joining the Navy, Sean Cahoon, the son of Mike and Debbie Cahoon of Bluffton, S.C., listened to a presentation made by the National Marrow Donor Program and decided to sign up as a donor through the Department of Defense. The young hospital corpsman didn’t give it much thought until he was contacted about seven months later and told he was a match for someone who needed a bone marrow transplant.
According to his mom, Sean immediately called his dad and said, “Dad, I could save someone’s life. How cool is that?”
I would have to say there’s nothing cooler. Not even the royal treatment Sean received following his four-day stay at Georgetown University Hospital where he underwent the procedure to have liquid marrow drawn from the back of his pelvic bones. When Beverly Young, the wife of Florida Congressman Bill Young (who initiated the C.W. Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Center in Washington, D.C.) heard that Sean was recovering in the hospital, she paid a visit to the young Navy corpsman. That visit led to a personalized tour of Washington D.C.’s National Mall, including a visit to the Pentagon where Sean was introduced to Admiral Gary Roughed, Chief of Naval Operations.
Sean admitted that the whole experience of being treated like a hero was a little overwhelming. “I was just glad that I could help someone,” he said, adding that the pain following the procedure was manageable and well worth it. When asked if he would do it again, he said, “Sure, if they need me.”
Yes, I know another heroic person — I know Sean Cahoon, Navy corpsman from Bluffton, S.C.
Even if Sean hadn’t been a match for that woman with cancer, I think his willingness to be a donor is heroic. Webster’s Dictionary defines heroic as “noble,” as in “a noble cause.” I can’t think of a more noble cause than offering to save someone’s life.
If you couldn’t make it to Ebenezer Middle School on Thursday to register with the National Bone Marrow Donor Program, there will be another opportunity on Jan. 30 during the Warball Tournament being held at EMS, which begins at 4 p.m.
I know that just joining the registry, a simple process, doesn’t sound like something a hero would do. And it certainly won’t get you a personal tour of the Pentagon. But if one of us gets that call, and if one of us is a perfect match, one of us could be a hero — maybe even Anthony Mastrianni’s hero.
How cool is that?
P.S. If you can’t donate blood or bone marrow for whatever reason, please consider making a monetary donation that might help pay for someone who can donate but can’t afford the fee to be tested.