Tennessee Valley Mom Pushes For Bone Marrow Donors

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Like any good mother, Nancy Salmon is quick to tell you all of the wonderful qualities of her one and only son, Paul.

“He was a very intelligent young man, fun, he likes to have fun, sweet, kind, caring, just an all-around super nice guy.”

Pictures and memories have become especially important after the Salmons lost Paul five years ago to acute myeloid leukemia. According to Nancy, he was diagnosed the day before his 23rd birthday and then he died 4 days after his 24th birthday. His only symptom was headaches, but a blood test quickly showed something was very wrong.

Nancy says, “He had chemotherapy. With acute myeloid leukemia, it’s one of the toughest rounds of chemotherapy there is. You go into the hospital and take chemo for seven straight days.”

Paul actually went into remission. But the cancer came back months later and he had to go back for another round of chemotherapy. His only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant. The family had two different bone marrow drives. Nancy says they searched the world over trying to find a bone marrow match for him, but they never could find a match.

Paul never gave up hope, focusing on his studies in computer engineering until the end.

“He was on a team and didn’t want to let his team down,” says Nancy. “So he did homework until it was really just about two weeks before he died that he could no longer navigate the laptop.”

Nancy says her faith is what’s gotten her through. “When it hit me, I have a lot of faith, and so I just said, ‘OK Lord, you know what this is all about, so we’re just going to trust you through this.’ And that’s what we did.”

Paul’s younger sister Kelly has turned her loss into a calling. In May, she will graduate with her nursing degree.

“If I can offer the experience I’ve had to my patients and maybe make a difference to their caregivers and offer them some understanding, that’s why I want to do it,” said Kelly.  “I want to do oncology nursing because my mom was sick and my brother was sick, so I know what it’s like.”

Just three years after Paul died, Nancy got the news she would have another battle to fight, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, she’s cancer free.  Now Nancy has a new focus: getting the word out about being a bone marrow donor. 

“You have the potential to save someone’s life by simply having your cheek swabbed," said Nancy.

If you’d like to be a bone marrow donor, go to marrow.org for more information.