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5 Questions with Hodgkin Lymphoma survivor Steve Sears (Kansas)

Interview

Steve Sears (Kansas) is a two-time survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Last year he wanted to register marrow donors through Be The Match, the largest marrow registry in the world. Steve didn’t just ask friends and family to register…he had a much larger goal in mind. What came next was a four-day marrow registration drive held on-site at 10 of the University of Kansas’ largest fraternities, resulting in 535 registrations. We sat down with Steve to find out more about this impressive example of a Knight of the Legion of Honor extending the Helping Hand.

Steve Sears (Kansas) assists two sorority women with their Be The Match registrations.

Where did this idea come from?

I'm a two-time Hodgkin lymphoma survivor. The second bout I had with it, almost five years ago, required me to have a stem cell transplant. Thankfully, it went well but it really is a gruesome process to go through. Being a patient of that treatment, and a survivor of that treatment, it raised my awareness of the need for donors to the stem cell registry. I didn't act on it for several years but through my involvement as a House Corporation officer for Nu (Kansas) it dawned on me to get the chapter brothers to register.

After that, I thought this was something that could be bigger than just the chapter and possibly at the campus level.

What would be your advice to a fellow Knight who wants to make an impact in their community but doesn’t know where to begin?

My background is consumer marketing. For each product I would have to prove it in a small market. If it worked, I took it to the next step and if it didn't I dropped it and tried something different. I would suggest starting small first. After starting small, just persevere through whatever roadblocks you encounter.

I would also advise to be aware of what's working for you that you weren't anticipating. For me, what helped to execute this project in four days was the support of the House Directors/Mothers. I underestimated how helpful they'd be.

Why is this registration process important?

What's remarkable about it is that it truly saves lives. When someone needs a transplant, they really need it. In fact, they’re likely in a critical or potential end-of-life condition. The treatment requirements for most patients is a third-party donor. Additionally, the donor has to have a DNA match that is in the 98% match proximity. For these transplants to go smoothly this database has to have a wide range of potential donors with a variety of DNA diversity. It is also not like donating an organ. It's incredibly simple to register and even easier to donate if you’re selected.

What would you do differently for the next registration drive?

I would increase the amount of education at the events. A lot of people who registered were doing what they believed was the right thing, but probably didn't have a sense of the importance of what they were doing. Information is always key.

What does the Helping Hand mean to you?

I am retired. At my 50th birthday, I retired and got my first cancer diagnosis. I decided to dedicate the time that would normally be spent working towards advocating. I would attribute this to the positive influences in my life, and a large part of that is Sigma Nu. Everyone can make an impact and it’s never too late to do it.

To find out how you can register for the National Marrow Donor Program or how your chapter can hold a registration drive on your campus, visit BeTheMatch.org.

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