Wright Words

Help a Writer Battle Cancer

Rissa Watkins was recently diagnosed with Acute Lymphosblastic Leukemia (ALL.) It's a fairly common type of leukemia, in fact it's one of the four most common types. Except it's usually seen in children - not so much in adults.

In this case, it happens to have hit not only a grown woman, but a writer, a wife and a mom. Rissa has a tough battle in front of her, and she's had to stop working so she can focus on getting well. This week she discovered that her leukemia is positive for the Philadelphia chromosome, a genetic mutation that causes parts of her DNA to swap places. This puts Rissa in a minority for ALL patients, but a pretty large one. It also means there is more than just chemotherapy or radiation waiting for her. She can be treated with medications that specifically target the chromosome that causes her cancer, which is a great thing! She's been given a pretty good prognosis so far.

It's going to be a while before Rissa's doctors can do all the things they need to do to help her body heal itself, though. Even here in Canada where we have socialized medicine, long stays in the hospital or repeated trips to the doctor can get expensive, but Rissa lives in the US where folks have to pay for medical care. Then there's the fact that Rissa and those close to her will have to take time away from work. Lost income is not something you want to have to think about when you're fighting a disease that could potentially kill you.

I don't really know Rissa, but she is a colleague who writes for the Yahoo! Contributor Network as I do. I have a number of friends who do know her, much in the same way that I had friends who knew Montreal writer Emru Townsend.

Emru fought leukemia not so very long ago, and unfortunately despite everything he and the doctors did he wasn't able to beat it. Before he passed away he did something truly extraordinary, though. He and his family discovered that he would need a stem cell transplant - one from an anonymous donor, because his only sibling was not a match. Because of his African heritage, it took a while to find a matching donor. It turns out, the best chances of getting a match are from someone of the same ethnicity. It also turns out people of colour are less likely than caucasians to register as donors.

Rather than let this get him down, Emru made it his business to educate the public and to encourage ethnic minorities to register. His family and friends have carried on his campaign of awareness in his stead. What an awesome thing this is! You can check them out at the Heal Emru web site, where you too can learn about stem cell donation. Who knows, if you register you might be able to help Rissa or someone very much like her.

There was a tremendous outpouring of love and concern for Emru, and because of him there were a lot of people who learned about leukemia. I was one of them. Now that we know Rissa is fighting this disease, I am again touched by the response of people around her. Many don't know her, or only know her through her writing. But they are working really hard to help Rissa!

It's going to be an expensive fight, and although Rissa's family does have medical insurance not everything will be covered. So money is something they can very much use right now, in addition to your well wishes, prayers and affirmations. This is where the fabulous people who make up the Y!CN writing family do their thing! Within hours of Rissa announcing her diagnosis there were folks fundraising, creating special web pages, and of course writing because that's what we know how to do best.

You can help too. Here's how:

  1. Read Rissa's articles at Y!CN. Her profile can be found here, and then by clicking on any title you like you can load the article. Rissa gets paid for every article you read, and all it costs you is a few minutes of your time. You might even learn something too, which makes it a definite win-win situation!
  2. If you can make a donation, please go to Rissa's GiveForward page. They'll make sure the money gets to her and her family.
  3. Buy a book from Twin Trinity Media. They are making a donation to Rissa of $1 for every physical book sold, and 25 cents for every e-book sold. And you get a cool book to read! Rissa's work appears in some of their works too. What a great way to get to know her and the friends who love her.
  4. Buy a leukemia themed t-shirt from teeBarefoot or a cancer ninja shirt from Circle 8 Writers. These folks are donating the proceeds of their sales to help Rissa.
  5. If you feel moved to register as a stem cell donor, please don't put it off. Time is critical when someone needs stem cells, and it can take a long time to find just the right match. You can check here to find your local registry, and read more on the Heal Emru site to educate yourself about the donation process.
  6. Share links to this page, to Rissa's profile or articles, and to the folks who are helping to fund raise for her. If you are so inclined, you can even write an article or blog post of your own! Thanks so much for being part of this fight. We're all in it together.