Marina Day has an easy laugh that ends many of her sentences. Her stylish, short-cropped, earth-color hair is in character with her lyrical nature; a bright and easy approach to life.
The 22-year-old Bard College undergrad from Pine Lake, outside of Atlanta, is currently living in Belmont with her mother and boyfriend but is eager to return to Annandale-on-Hudson, New York for her senior year, to return to performing the classical violin and creating her own brand of "catchy pop-ish, unusual melodic music."
But first, Marina has to finally beat back this thing called cancer.
In August 2010, she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia that was treated with inhibitors. But after going into remission October, the cancer mutated into a more severe form requiring Day to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy in New York.
But in April of this year, Day was in Boston's Dana Farber Cancer Institute receiving a bone marrow transplant, as best as she can guess, from a teenage donor probably 4,000 miles away in Europe.
And despite a set back here and there, Day said her final treatment was two weeks ago.
Day is an example of how someone can revive hope in a person half-a-world away.
"I'm so grateful for this girl who was a perfect match, in perfect health. I want someone to have the same experience," said Day, who is helping a Belmont woman undergoing her own journey securing a donor.
Tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 29, from noon to 4 p.m., in the Belmont Center office of Light Touch Chiropractic upstairs at 66 Leonard St. with a quick swab of your cheek, participants older than 18 will be entered into the Be The Match Morrow Registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.
"It's a breeze. I mean, it involves a Q-tip. It can't be that complicated," said Day, with that laugh, adding that Belmont Center businesses are making donations and providing coupons to those getting swabbed.
Like so many medical procedures, donating bone marrow has become less invasive than in the past when morrow was taken surgically from a donor.
"Now, it requires two shots and drawing blood for a couple of hours. It's easier and not much of a big deal for the donor," said Day.
Helping a neighbor
Everyone in Belmont and surrounding towns can potentially become someone's hero, including Deborah Margosian Chapman's.
A physical therapist, Margosian Chapman was active and healthy until just a few months ago when began feeling drained and out-of-sorts. Anticipating Lyme disease, the life-altering diagnosis for the wife and mother of two was Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive blood cancer.
Debbi's best chance fighting the disease is finding a marrow match. But from the start, Margosian Chapman's odds were reduced: none of her siblings were suitable and she is of Armenian heritage that limits the number of possible donors.
"It's important that we get people with an Armenian background out on Saturday," said Day.
While the Be The Match event is open to all donors, the Margosian Chapman family is urging members of the Armenian community, 18 to 60, to come and get tested; this age limit is higher than the Armenian Bone Marrow Registry, which cuts off potential donors at 50 years.
"I just felt compelled to give back because I had a relatively easy time, at least in terms of finding a donor," she said. "Debbi has gone through way more chemotherapy then me."
"If I could do anything to help Debbi find a donor, I would be so honored," said Day.
While there is no cost to become a bone marrow donor, funds – it takes $100 to process each sample, said Day – raised will add more potential donors to the Be The Match Registry, the largest and most diverse registry of potential marrow donors and cord blood units in the world. Go to the website to make a contribution.