Today’s my mother Nancy’s birthday. She would have been 62 years old.
When I think about her death, it’s still hard to wrap my head around it, especially now that I’m a mother. My mom was one of those people who took her health seriously: eating organically, exercising every day (50 laps each morning!), and taking pride in her well-being. Every cancer diagnosis is shocking—but my mom’s commitment to health made hers especially confusing.
She was diagnosed with lymphoma in February 2008, when she was 54 years old. Her condition swiftly deteriorated: she died that December, soon after her 55th birthday. I was 28 years old at the time, and I remember it like yesterday—but I’m 35 now. So much life has happened since. I met the love of my life. I became a mother. I appeared on national TV. I published two books. I spent a decade as one of the first, most visible beauty bloggers. I traveled the world.
And yet, with the exception of Aurelia’s birth, my mother’s death remains the defining experience of my life. Everything changed for me after she died. Then Aurelia came, and everything changed again.
Last year, in those heady pregnancy days when I was keeping everything on the DL (Secret baby! Secret show!), the idea of savings the stem cells from the umbilical cord for potential future medical use for our family came up. Our doctor mentioned it, we’d seen a few pamphlets floating around, and I read a few things about it online, but it didn’t make much of a mental dent. We were much more concerned with my expanding waistline and trying to take as many trips as possible (not to mention getting as much sleep as possible!) before the reality of becoming parents sunk in.
As soon as we hit the third trimester, however, everything became much more real. That’s when we started scrambling to get the nursery ready, choosing preschools we’d like to get on waiting lists for, and, yes, planning to cord blood bank as one way to help prepare for Aurelia’s future health. Once I started researching cord blood banking, I realized this was just the kind of thing that I wanted for Aurelia because of my mother’s history with lymphoma. I learned that cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of more than 80 diseases, with blood diseases and lymphoma right at the top of the list.
It works by extracting blood, after delivery, from the umbilical cord that contains stem cells. These stem cells can become the cells of the blood and immune system and can be used in the treatment of various types of leukemia, including juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, bone marrow conditions, blood disorders like sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, metabolic disorders like Tay Sachs disease, and, of course, several different types of lymphoma, through a procedure called a stem cell transplant.
My mother was such a health nut that it’s frustrating that she still succumbed to a terrible disease. I ponder what we could have had access to as a treatment option if she had cord blood stored. Of course, the technology didn’t exist back when she was born. But now the technology is available, and it’s easy and relatively-affordable (at $1,650 for the initial banking and $150 per year thereafter – with payment plans available through the company I chose, Cord Blood Registry).
I had a discussion about cord blood banking last year with one of my friends who was also pregnant. I told her we were doing it, and she worried about the cost, wondering if it was really worth it. I get it: $1650 is nothing to sneeze at, particularly if you’re saving and scrimping and drowning in bills. But, having the potential to treat certain conditions makes me feel like you’re regaining at least a little bit of control—like you’re slightly gaming the system.
Why wouldn’t you choose to bank for the health of your family?
Needless to say, I made the choice and the actual process was a breeze. Cord Blood Registry®, CBR®, sent a box to our home a few months before my due date, we filled out the paperwork and registered online, and then we placed the box in my hospital bag. Once at the hospital in labor, we gave the box to the nurses at check-in and didn’t have to worry about it again. My doctor performed the banking right after Aurelia was born by taking a small vial of blood from the umbilical cord, and then we called an 800 number on the box to arrange for a Medical Courier to pick up the box from the hospital in a crush-resistant, temperature protected kit. Done. You can even get status updates via text as the blood is transported back to the center.
To learn more about cord blood banking for your family, click here.
I know we’re not going to be able to protect Aurelia from pain, sadness, and sickness—unfortunately, they’re all part of life. But the knowledge that we made an easy choice to potentially help her fight at least a few of life’s terrible, unexpected medical surprises helped us sleep much better during those harrowing, anxious first few nights. (When we were sleeping at all, of course!)
Disclosure: While all opinions here are my own, Cord Blood Registry provided me with my first year of banking for free in exchange for a post and social media support. I reached out to them and made arrangements with them last year, well in advance of my decision to stop writing any new Sponsored Posts.