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Six years after swabbing at Dance Marathon, UF grad called to donate

Mar 11, 2019 by Gift of Life Donor Story

In March 2012, University of Florida student Candace decided to take the challenge: she signed up for Dance Marathon, an annual event at college campuses across the country. At the event she accepted a second challenge – she stopped at Gift of Life’s table and swabbed her cheek to become a volunteer bone marrow donor.

“It was a spontaneous decision,” said Candace. “I had a vague awareness that I was in the registry, but never expected to be called.”

But six years after swabbing, Candace was identified as the match for a man battling myelodysplastic disorder, a form of bone marrow cancer, and she got the miracle call from Gift of Life, “You can save someone’s life!”

"Donating is really easy ... it's a rewarding experience and you'll be happy you did it."

Although she was a little worried that slightly elevated blood pressure might defer her from donating, after a thorough physical she was given the “All Clear” and her day of donation was scheduled at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Most stem cell donors are connected to the apheresis machine using their arms: blood is drawn from one arm, the stem cells are collected, and then a second line returns the remaining blood to the donor. Candace, however, got a central line.

Her mom accompanied her and for the four hours of collection, Candace chatted with her, sent emails, and took a nap. Her family is incredibly proud and supportive of her decision to save someone else’s life. She plans to write a letter to her recipient, and hopes to learn that he is on the road to recovery.  Although communication for the first year must be anonymous, the two may be able to meet some day if both parties are willing.

“Donating is really easy,” said Candace. “It’s a rewarding experience and you’ll be happy you did it. Everyone should if they have the opportunity.”

Although her life as a media buyer in Los Angeles is a busy one, Candace has made time to be more involved with Gift of Life, explaining her donation experience at events and helping to swab new donors. 

In her free time, Candace and her boyfriend look for new restaurants and love exploring different types of food.