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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Bone Marrow Drive To Benefit South Glens Falls Cancer Patient

SOUTH GLENS FALLS – “You have cancer.”

Those words came at Joy Clark and her world went numb. She could still see the doctor and she could still hear her best friend and daughter asking questions, but she felt as though she was totally inside of herself – separated from the real world and the surreal.


“I was kind of in shock and disbelief,” said Joy. “It was a quiet moment for me. All I could think was you are telling me I am going to die? I kept thinking ‘This can’t be happening to me. I have children I have to raise, I have things I want to do, I can’t die.’”

Joy was diagnosed last summer with Myelodysplastic Syndrome – a rare form of cancer that attacks the bone marrow. It is the same disease that Robin Roberts of Good Morning America is being treated for and according to the American Cancer Society; approximately 12,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Joy’s diagnosis did not come easily though. For a year she had been feeling tired, her joints hurt deep within her body, and she often found herself short of breath.

“I was sure it was Lyme disease,” said Joy, whose regular visits to the doctor failed to turn up anything wrong with her. “The doctor did some tests and nothing came up except my Vitamin D levels were off, so he thought maybe it was arthritis.”

As a single mom with three children, Joy said she tried to push the nagging doubt she had away.

“I was like a lot of moms – who gets taken care of last? You always take the back seat,” she said.

With extra doses of Vitamin D, Joy began to feel better, but her joints still continued to ache.

“My joints hurt so bad, I could not push myself up from the floor,” she continued.

Another year passed, and again, her symptoms reappeared. But this time they were accompanied by an internal heat she had never experienced, not even during menopause.

“It was not like hot flashes. It was a heat deep within me. I knew it wasn’t right,” she said.

This time she went to her gynecologist who ordered a mammograph and body scan. That reveal some osteoporosis in her spine, but that still not reveal what the real source of her symptoms were.

That is when she decided to see Maureen Highland, PA. “I credit her with saving my life,” Joy said.

Tests were run and then on a Friday Joy got a call that would set life as she knew it adrift.

“The cancer center called and said they needed me to come in for some tests,” explained Joy. “That was a Friday, so I spent the entire weekend worrying about what they wanted me to come in for.”

Those tests revealed her white blood count was abnormally low. Unfortunately, even though she kept going back for monthly monitoring of her white blood cell count, no one could definitely say what was wrong with her.

That is because, Joy explained, diagnosing myelodysplastic is complicated since the disease hides in the bone marrow and a biopsy has to be performed.

“That is when I learned we would have to do a bone marrow aspiration – it is the only way to tell,” continued Joy. “A week later is when they told me I had the syndrome.”

Told she had less than three years to live without treatment, Joy said she knew she had to face her fears and stand up to the cancer.

“I needed to own this, I didn’t want it to own me,” said Joy. “I had to have power over this disease, not it over me.”

That is when Joy talked to her colleagues and asked if they could help. The fund raiser, a Be The Match Registry bone marrow drive, is set for next Saturday, November 17th at the Oliver W. Winch Middle School in South Glens Falls where Joy is secretary to the principal.

“It has turned into so much more – there is now a bake sale and raffle and face painting,” she added.

Be The Match helps patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other diseases that need a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant and people can become a donor, volunteer, or contribute financially to the organization. The process to see if you match anyone, said Joy, is not initially invasive.

“They swab the inside of your cheek in four areas and then it is typed and studied,” said Joy. “If it is a match, they’ll contact you and then begins the process.”

Joy said that all the proceeds from the fund raiser will go to the National Marrow Donor Program.

“If you want to come and support me, that would be great,” said Joy. “But be willing to save a stranger. We are all on journeys and all of our journeys may be different, but we are on our journeys together.”

The Oliver W. Winch Middle School is located at 99 Hudson Street, So. Glens Falls.

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