‘Cancer moms’ donate blood with kids in mind

Moms of kids with cancer are regular platelet donors - inspired by their kids’ battle with cancer.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 11:18 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Every blood donor has their own reasons for why they donate. Some people do it simply to help out hospitals. But others donate in honor of a child’s memory.

Alana Phillips is a regular in the MEDIC Regional Blood Center.

“Maybe 30, 40, probably more,” said Phillips, talking about how many times she’s donated blood or platelets.

Phillips used to donate blood periodically, but that changed when her daughter Tillery was diagnosed with cancer - a brain tumor - at 15 months old.

“She has had 18 surgeries. She did two years of iv chemo when she was first diagnosed,” said Phillips. “And then when she relapsed in 2020, we started an oral chemo.”

Those experiences taught Phillips a lot about cancer, and how valuable blood and platelet donations were to keep her daughter alive.

“All of the blood vessels in her body run through her brain tumor,” Phillips explained. “And so, all of her surgeries are very, very bloody.”

Phillips calls herself a cancer mom, and she’s not the only cancer mom that donated on Friday.

Denise Rowe donated platelets with her son Ethan in mind. Ethan passed away from cancer at 12 years old in 2015. It was Ethan’s battle with cancer that opened Rowe’s eyes to how much donations are needed.

“Ethan needed platelets and we had to wait over six hours to receive platelets from another county,” said Rowe. “Fortunately, he had six hours, that he could wait. Some kids don’t.”

Danna Johnson donated platelets too. Her 15-year-old son Corey was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, inspiring her to donate five times a year ever since. She said the three women have become close, creating a support group for each other.

“Unfortunately, cancer brought us together, but this is what keeps people going,” said Johnson.

Cancer can feel like a never ending battle. But it’s a battle these women are committed to. To help their loved ones, and other kids that are fighting the battle.

“We are willing to do anything to further this cause to make it better for the next generation of kids,” Phillips said.

The women said despite how much they’ve donated, they’ll never be able to match the amount of donations their kids have received and they’re encouraging people to give it a try.