The supermodel, who lost her own brother to leukemia, opens up to PEOPLE about her fight to help children with the disease
Shortly after this story was published, Katharina Harf, co-founder of Delete Blood Cancer DKMS, told PEOPLE that Chase Foley has found a donor. "We are so happy that little Chase found a match, which will give him a second chance at life," Harf said. "We are also so grateful for Cindy Crawford’s involvement with Delete Blood Cancer DKMS and her continuing fight to find donors for the thousands of other children who are still hoping to find a match. We hope people will continue to register as donors to help the children in their fight."
When Cindy Crawford found out about a 2-year-old boy with leukemia who needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life, she had to do something to help.
“I lost my little brother, Jeff, to leukemia when I was just 10 years old,” Crawford, 48, tells PEOPLE. “Sadly, a bone marrow transplant wasn’t an option for him then.”
In 1974, when Crawford was 8 years old, Jeff was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was just 2 years old. At the time, she says, the deadly disease only had a 25 percent cure rate. After two years of experimental treatments, Jeff lost his battle, right before his 4th birthday.
The death of her brother, whom she describes as “one of the most influential people in my life,” was devastating, says Crawford, who for years has been an advocate for bone marrow donation.
“But today,” Crawford explains, “we have the chance to save the life of little Chase Foley and countless other children. We need your help to find him a bone marrow donor.”
Diagnosed at 4 Weeks Old
Doctors discovered that Foley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was just 4 weeks old, says Katharina Harf, the co-founder of Delete Blood Cancer DKMS, the world’s largest nonprofit marrow donor center, which is helping to find a match for Foley.
To give him the best chance at survival, Chase’s parents, Chris and Elizabeth Foley, and their children, Alexis, Austin, Peyton and Chase, moved from Syracuse, New York, into the Ronald McDonald House in Albany, New York, so Chase could focus on his treatment with the pediatric oncology team at Albany Medical Center.
“Chase is only 2½ years old but had undergone more medical procedures than the average adult experiences in a lifetime,” says Harf. “He’s never lived in a real home with his family or had a chance to just be a kid. His best hope for survival is a bone marrow transplant. But his medical team hasn’t been able to find a matching marrow donor who can help him. If we can find a match for Chase, he can be saved.”
Crawford has been working with Delete Blood Cancer DKMS since 2007, and she was honored at the organization’s Linked Against Leukemia gala in 2008 for her advocacy efforts.
Getting tested is easy, says Harf, whose father, Peter Harf, founded DKMS in 1990 after his wife – Katharina’s mother, Mechtild – was diagnosed with an acute form of blood cancer. She lost her battle in 1991 at age 46.
Test results from a cheek swab are sent to a national bone marrow registry. If the marrow is a match, donors undergo a minor outpatient surgery to extract healthy stem cells to replace the patient’s unhealthy cells.
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