BOCA RATON, Fla. — Hundreds of people gathered in Boca Raton Sunday morning to raise awareness and help cure blood cancer at the 13th annual Gift of Life’s Steps for Life 5K.
Prior to the race, participants were able to witness an emotional moment between a stem cell donor and her recipient.
“There are no words that can describe it,” said Rebekah Stover. “When I hugged her, I just felt that electricity, just two souls finally meeting that are the same.”
Stover was in need of bone marrow in 2020 when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I never thought I would get cancer at such a young age,” said Stover.
But just two months after being diagnosed, she found out she had matched with someone from the Gift of Life registry and would be able to receive the stem cells.
“It was honestly probably one of the best moments of my life to date,” said Nicole Fierro, Rebekah’s donor. “She is someone that I’m going to be connected with physically and emotionally.”
In the U.S., you’re allowed to meet your stem cell or marrow donor one year after the transplant. For Rebekah, this all happened at the Steps for Life race.
“There are no words that can describe what I want to say to her,” said Stover.
Gift of Life was founded over 30 years ago when Jay Feinberg received his bone marrow transplant after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Ever since, he’s been advocating for people to get swabbed. So far, he has matched tens of thousands of patients and facilitated transplants for over 4000 people.
“No patient should die from lack of a donor for their stem cell transplant,” sais Feinberg.
The event also serves as a fundraiser to help pay for testing the swabs and getting people into the public donor pool. But now, for Rebekah and Nicole, this event means more.
“We are going to be bonded for life now,” said Stover.