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Monday, January 02, 2006

Bone marrow drive planned to help Iditarod champion with leukemia

Susan Butcher sounds every bit like the tough competitor she is — even when she is asked about her strategy for beating leukemia. After all, this is the same woman who four times won the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the longest sled dog race in the world.

"Now my goal is to try and stay alive and fight leukemia," she said from her hospital room in Seattle. "No questions asked, that's what I am going to do."

Butcher, 51, knows she can't fight leukemia alone. She was hoping that thousands of Alaskans would come forward today for a blood drive so she — or someone else — can receive a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.

While her doctors have not talked specifics with her about finding a match, it could be 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 50,000, according to the Blood Bank of Alaska.

With about 50 cases of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) diagnosed in Alaska each year, Butcher is hoping the drive helps somebody — maybe even one of the several other Alaskans with leukemia on her floor at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

If not that, she hopes the drive will help Native Alaskans by registering more potential donors for them. The best bone marrow matches are found in people with similar genetic backgrounds.


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