A Minnesota family is sharing the story of their journey with cancer in the hopes that they can pay it forward to two local organizations they credit with saving lives.
The Lucas family credits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with playing a key role in keeping a then-34-year-old mother alive -- and in the lives of her two young children. Then, there's Be the Match -- the group that ultimately helped Betsy Lucas find a young man across the globe who would save her life for good.
For Lucas, it's the simple things in life that puts a smile on her face. Playing cards with her girls carries an extra appreciation because not long ago, Lucas believed she wouldn't get to see them grow up.
"Eight years ago, I was diagnosed suddenly with leukemia," she told FOX 9 News. "I would have had 3 months to live if it had not been for a bone marrow transplant."
That transplant came from a 19-year-old stranger in Germany who signed up with Be the Match as a donor. Tobias signed up with the organization a few years before he traveled to the United States to meet Lucas and become her hero.
"The fact that this young man had the willingness to step forward for a complete stranger -- it was overwhelming," Lucas recalled.
Nearly a decade later, Lucas is in remission and her husband, Brian, is sharing their story in a book titled "Here Comes the Sun: A Young Family's Journey through Cancer."
According to Brian Lucas, the book began as a series of journal entries he wrote to share on his wife's CaringBridge website.
"We realized, 'We can't do this by ourselves,'" he explained. "So, we opened ourselves up and, not surprisingly, people flooded in to help -- and that left an impact on us that will never go away."
The title was inspired by a song the Lucases listened to while she was sick.
"I think it captures very well our attitude, going through it," Brian Lucas said. "An optimistic feeling -- we were going to get through this together."
The book is how the Lucas family hopes to give back. They plan to donate some of the proceeds to Be the Match and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an organization hat funded research for a drug that was only approved five years before Lucas was diagnosed.
"This drug -- Gleevac -- allowed her to get into remission long enough to have the transplant," Brian Lucas said.
If the book raises enough money to allow a researcher one more day in the lab -- or helps recruit just one more donor to a patient, Brian Lucas says it's a win for everyone.
"To me, that is what drives me," he said. "I want to get this story out, benefit those organizations."
Over the years, more and more people have signed up to become bone marrow donors. Currently, there are 10.5 million people on the register, but Be the Match says it's still not enough to meet the need. The Lucas family said ethnic donors are particularly needed.
Brian Lucas will sign copies of the book at Target Field on Sunday during the Light the Night Walk, an event to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
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