San Antonio mother searches for lifesaving marrow donor
Taylor Castro has dedicated her life to her family and community, but the young mother of three never expected that she would one day be in need of a bone marrow transplant.
In early October 2018, six months after giving birth to her youngest daughter, Castro was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Her best hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant.
“Even before my diagnosis, I knew about the importance of people joining the registry,” Castro said. “Now that I am actually in it, I can really see how sad it is. Not that many people are on the registry and a lot of people are dying.”
Castro has worked as a document control coordinator at the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center (STBTC), a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global, for almost two years. She also has volunteered for marrow awareness events, including World Marrow Donor Day.
Castro’s co-workers at GenCure, also part of the BioBridge Global family of nonprofits, works with Be the Match to find potential donors in South Texas for patients like Taylor. GenCure has 250,000 people from 60 south Texas counties on its regional registry, and 80 percent of them come from diverse backgrounds.
“Knowing that we have such a diverse registry gives me hope that my daughter will find a match,” said Naomi Herrera, Castro’s mother and an apheresis nurse at GenCure. “It’s a cure, it’s possible, and it’s out there.”
Every year, 14,000 patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Patients are more likely to match with someone from their own ethnic or racial ancestry. That means patients like Castro, who is part Caucasian and Hispanic, may have a harder time finding a lifesaving match.
Castro wants to continue the effort by Susie Rabaca, a California woman who was diagnosed with leukemia while expecting twins earlier this year. Rabaca, a mother of three, inspired 49,000 people to join the registry in a week. Rabaca recently found a match, but continues to encourage people to sign up.
Joining the marrow registry is the first step to potentially being the cure for patients like Rabaca and Castro. Text Cure111 to 61474 to start the registration process, or visit Join.BeTheMatch.org/Taylor.
Potential donors must be between the ages of 18-44, in general good health, and have no history of or current serious illnesses. Those who sign up will be on the registry until they are 61. More about the registry is available at GenCure.org/BeTheMatch.
Castro remains in good spirits as she waits for news about a match, but expects more challenges once she finds a transplant.
Her first chemotherapy treatment included a 24-hour chemo drip for seven days, along with blood and platelet transfusions, which are provided to the hospital by STBTC. She remained in the hospital for three weeks, and because her immune system was weakened during her treatment, she was unable to see her three children.
“I went from seeing them every single morning, picking them up from school, picking them up from daycare to nothing,” she said. “It was really hard.
“And when I do get a bone marrow transplant, the doctors said I will be in the hospital for a month. I won’t be able to care for my children.”
While she waits for a match, Castro relies on continuous platelet transfusions during her chemo treatments. Her strong support system of family and friends keeps her hopeful that many people will join the registry as possible.
“Even if I don’t find a match, if more people join the registry, another patient will,” she said.
To follow Castro’s story, visit her Facebook page, Facebook.com/TaylorSupporters. Connect for Life on Facebook will be providing support for the virtual registry drive held in Taylor’s honor.