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Tissue donors sought for 2-year-old with leukemia

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COPENHAGEN — In just minutes, you could help save Chase R. Foley, a 2-year-old acute lymphoblastic leukemia patient.

All it takes is a simple cheek swab during a bone marrow drive from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the fire hall here, 9950 Route 12.

“Our only option is a bone marrow transplant,” said Jeri Gray, Chase’s older cousin. “His bone marrow is basically defective. If he doesn’t get new bone marrow, the cancer will come back. You can’t be on chemotherapy your whole life. Being in remission buys him the time for that transplant.”

At just one month, Chase was diagnosed with ALL, which according to the National Institutes of Health is a fast-growing cancer commonly found in children 3 to 7. ALL is a cancer “of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes,” which are found in bone marrow and elsewhere. Bone marrow is spongy tissue inside some bones that helps form blood cells.

The National Institutes of Health reported that there is no clear cause for ALL. Chase’s white blood cell count at diagnosis was 1.3 million, far surpassing the normal range, Ms. Gray said. Chase’s family has no cancer history.

Chase began chemotherapy treatments in Syracuse and then Albany. But travel became too much and the Foley family relocated to Albany to be close to Chase, where he continues to receive chemotherapy at Albany Medical Center.

Over the past two years, Ms. Gray said, Chase has battled his cancer, following the diagnosis, multiple blood transfusions, remission and relapse. He now remains in remission.

Although the need is to find a bone marrow match now, it takes upwards of two months before someone’s sample is logged into national databases. Tonight’s event is sponsored by Be The Match, which helps cover the cost of transplants and uses funds for research.

Another bone marrow drive will take place in Chase’s honor from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 31 at the Bruce M. Wright Memorial Conference Center, 1291 Faichney Drive, Watertown. That event will be sponsored by Delete Blood Cancer DMS, a New York City-based organization that is part of the world’s largest bone marrow donor center.

Ms. Gray said she and the extended Foley family will try to find a match for Chase “until the day we die.” But they also hope to find matches from north country donors for people throughout the nation who need a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

People who are picked to be a match, Ms. Gray said, won’t know the name or personal information of the person they are saving. Donors will know the recipients’ age. One year after transplant, she said, donors may opt to have their information released if they would like to meet the recipient.

“It’s not just a mouth swab; it’s a confidential commitment to attend blood work, physical testing and a procedure at a local hospital,” she said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, bone marrow is harvested after the recipient is given general anesthesia and needles are inserted into the pelvic bone or breastbone, where marrow is then drawn out.

The hour-long procedure, which may involve up to two weeks’ recovery time, will help give someone his or her life back, Ms. Gray said. Althrough his inpatient chemotherapy remains part of the treatment plan, it now will become an outpatient treatment regimen.

Chase has remained a spunky, energetic, active little boy, she said.

“He’s someone, when you see him, he touches your heart,” Ms. Gray said. “You don’t know he’s sick. He’s a fighter.”

The Foley family, originally from Copenhagen, also includes parents Elizabeth and Christopher, 5-year-old Peyton, 15-year-old Austin and 16-year-old Alexis.

To follow Chase’s fight, visit http://wdt.me/Gqf6YF, or http://wdt.me/wqm5Ew.

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