Worthington News

Longtime resident seeking marrow donor

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Kim Roper (center) sits with her family, sons Matt (left) and Drew and husband Jim, at her home in Worthington. Roper is searching for a bone-marrow donor for a transplant to cure her non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
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Worthington once again is rallying around one of its own.

Since the call went out two weeks ago, record numbers of community members have signed up for a national bone-marrow transplant registry in hopes of being a match for Worthington Hills resident Kim Roper, who is facing a recurrence of an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Thus far, a match has not been found, but she is confident that one would be found in time for the medical procedure that could extend or save her life, she said. She is scheduled to begin chemo-therapy to kill cancer cells within the next week.

When her body is ready, she could be administered a bone-marrow transplant, but it must be from a donor whose blood matches hers on seven of eight DNA markers.

Volunteers may sign up for the registry at information tables to be set up at the Battle for Hard Road, the football game between Worthington Kilbourne and Dublin Scioto high schools, Friday, Oct. 26, at Kilbourne.

Volunteers also may register online at match4kim.com.

Donors will be sent a kit to give a swab of cheek cells. The sample is used to match donors with patients.

During its first four days, the website received 5,000 hits, and 250 people registered as donors with the National Marrow Donor Program, which is a nonprofit organization that provides bone-marrow and umbilical-cord transplants to patients in need.

A team of family, friends and neighbors are coordinating the drive to find a match.

It reaches beyond Worthington to Pennsylvania State University, where Kim and Jim Roper's son, Drew, is a student and to Ohio State University, where their son, Matt, is a student.

Drew plays lacrosse at Penn State, where all athletes were tested during a three-day drive. Athletes at other universities also have been challenged to help find a match.

The Ropers have lived in Worthington Hills for 19 years and before that lived in Riverlea for six years. The couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last weekend.

Kim, 50, is a nurse. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in January 2009. The cancer affects white blood cells. The disease was found during a mammogram.

She immediately underwent radiation treatments, but the cancer was found to have returned during her one-year checkup.

This time, slow-growing tumors had transformed into a more aggressive type of the disease.

Roper then went through chemotherapy, but eight weeks after she finished that treatment, the disease had returned. It again was thought to be the slow-growing form.

At the end of August of this year, she went for a checkup and everything was fine. Two weeks later, a huge lymph node was found. Biopsies showed it was an even more aggressive form of the lymphoma.

"Chemo won't work for me," she said. "They can treat me with chemo, but the results are only short-lived."

Her best option now is intensive in-patient chemotherapy, followed by a bone-marrow transplant.

The chemo will kill the cancer cells, and they will be replaced by healthy blood cells from a donor who is a match.

If the procedure is successful, the new blood cells will grow and take the place of the diseased ones.

Roper will be in the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University for three days. Twenty-one days later, she will return for three more days of chemo.

When the cancer cells are gone, the bone-marrow transplant could be done. That could be as early as late November or as late as January.

If a matching donor cannot be found in time, a stem-cell transplant of her own T-cells will be done.

That procedure, which, she said, is like "rebooting" her blood, could help extend her life, but it would not have the cure rate of a bone-marrow transplant.

Donors are ideally 18 to 44 years old, though people up to age 60 may register to be a donor.

Transplants from younger donors have been found to be most successful, according to a fact sheet from the NMDP.

About 10 million potential donors are registered. About one in 540 members of the registry could go on to donate bone marrow or stem cells to a patient.

Donors might be kept on a list and be called for up to 40 years. Donors, also, always have the right to withdraw from the program.

A donation is done as a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the donor's pelvic bones, using special, hollow needles.

General or regional anesthesia is used, so donors feel no injections and no pain during donation.

Besides at the football game, registration sites for potential donors will be set up in Worthington Hills, Perry Township and at various workplaces throughout the area in coming weeks.

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