Carl Shedivy was on vacation with his family when he received an unexpected call from his doctor. "She said, 'We'd like you to come back for a consultation on Wednesday, could you do that?'" he tells WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Carl said he could, but he wanted a good reason to cut his vacation short. In reality, it was a reason he clearly didn't want. His doctor informed him he had acute myeloid leukemia, and it had already made its way into "80 percent of his blood cells." A week later, he was at Mayo Clinic, where he would soon begin his first round of chemotherapy.
The start of chemotherapy also signaled the point, Denise, Carl's wife, tells WKBT-TV, when they stopped feeling sorry for themselves and focused on fighting the disease. Doctors told them Carl's best shot at beating his cancer would be a bone marrow transplant, if they could find a match. That seemed easy enough, since Carl has nine siblings. But one by one, they were tested, and results came back negative. "We were just floored," Carl says. Though that result was surprising, Mark Litzow, M.D., a Mayo hematologist, tells the station it's not unheard of. "There's about a 1 in 4, 1 in 3 chance, that any one of his siblings would've been a match," he says.
With his siblings eliminated from the process, Carl turned to "Be the Match," keepers of the worldwide database of bone marrow donors. And while waiting for his match, Carl and his family decided to use his situation to "pay it forward" and help get the word out about the need for bone marrow donations and adding possible donors to the registry. Denise helped organize several "Be the Match" registry drives. "It's pretty easy" to sign up, Carl tells WKBT. "You answer a series of questions online, then if you pass that, they send you a kit, it's really a cotton swab inside your mouth, you seal it up, send it in to 'Be the Match' and they put you in the registry. It's that simple."
The power of the registry eventually came through for Carl. He received the transplant, and while doctors say he still has a "long road" ahead of him, Carl says he's planning to stay "Shedivy Strong" throughout. That's a motto born out of the support network of family and friends Carl says has been with him since day one. "People have latched onto it, and the photos we're getting with creative banners with the 'Shedivy Strong' message with people taking pictures, has been heartwarming," he says.
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