Stem cell donor Jon Kayne (r) with his recipient, Emmy-award winning TV producer Steven Bochco.
When New Jersey native Jon Kayne swabbed his cheek to join the Gift of Life Marrow Registry during his Birthright trip to Israel in 2012, he hoped to help someone with cancer. Jon had lost his beloved grandfather to brain cancer, and his grandmother lives with chronic leukemia and receives periodic chemotherapy treatments. He knows how deeply cancer can affect a family.
“It’s simple, it only takes a minute or two,” said Jon, describing how fast it is to swab the inside of your cheek and join the registry. Two years after swabbing and completing a health questionnaire, Jon learned that he was a match for a 70-year-old man suffering from leukemia. Even though he was living in San Francisco, he flew to New York in order to donate. On October 7, 2014, his stem cells were given to a total stranger, someone who had no other remaining options for treatment.
Jon learned his recipient’s identity when they were introduced in May 2016 at an event in Los Angeles. It was 10-time Emmy award winner Steven Bochco, creator of hit television series including “Hill Street Blues”, “L.A. Law” and “Doogie Howser, M.D.” Bochco was anxious to meet the young man who had given so generously to save a stranger.
“A cancer diagnosis is the last thing you expect when you spend your whole adult life working to be healthy,” Bochco said, in one of his daily emails during his hospital stay, as he reflected on his life and career. The emails gave him a focus for his fight with cancer, and later became the basis for his memoir, Truth is a Total Defense: My Fifty Years in Television.
As a result of the transplant, Bochco gained three years with his family and friends. He passed away on April 1, 2018.
“Steven started to get better, then the cancer came back,” said Jon. “I went to Steven’s memorial service in early May. At first I felt that the transplant had not been such a great success … you give someone hope, but they are so sick that it isn’t enough. Yet at the service I heard Steven’s family talk about how much it meant to them to have more time with him. We don’t realize the impact that extending someone’s life has on their family and community. Many of his colleagues talked about how he had mentored them, or helped start their careers, or had been a father figure. Those three additional years with Steven were incredibly meaningful to so many people. I didn’t realize when I donated that it wasn’t just stem cells for him; this was giving so much for so many people.”
Jon encourages everyone to join the marrow registry. “The impact on you is small – a little time, maybe a small discomfort for a day – but the outcome for the recipient, and his or her family, friends, and loved ones is tremendous. You, and everyone around you, has power – the real power to save a life. This is a life changing experience. Regardless of how it happens, you will never be the same. Even if your recipient doesn’t make it, you have given them a chance to live.”
Jon currently resides in New York and works at a technology start-up.
The First Annual Steven Bochco Award will be given to a Gift of Life volunteer, donor or recipient who exemplifies the qualities Steven was best known for: vision, innovation and storytelling. The award winners will be individuals who have used their own personal story to benefit and further Gift of Life’s mission.
Whether they shared their story to introduce an innovative partnership, implement a successful project, or create awareness among a constituency previously unaffiliated with Gift of Life, this award will celebrate Steven’s life and the positive and powerful role our volunteer leaders play in fighting blood cancer.
The award winner for 2018 has been chosen by a special committee led by Steven’s wife, Dayna Bochco. Dayna Bochco and Jon will present the award on Monday, October 29, 2018 at Gift of Life’s inaugural One Huge Night Gala in Los Angeles.