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Lindsay Simmons looking for bone marrow match

8:38 AM, Sep 28, 2012   |    comments
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WOODSTOCK, Ga. -- The interview seat comes after a long journey for 13-year-old Lindsay Simmons. She made her first appearance on 11Alive five years ago in a story about runners raising money for cancer. That shy girl in remission was a long time ago.

For more than half her life, she's been fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She barely remembers not being sick. "If I'm not going to have cancer, I feel like I'm not myself," she said. On pre-cancer memories: "I kind of remember being a baby and with my dog and my family and being happy. I just want everything to be normal again."

Over the last six years, the hope that everything would turn out OK has hardened into a single, desperate plea. "The only chance for a long-term cure for Lindsay is another transplant," her mother, Sara, said.

Her older sister, Hannah, already donated bone marrow to Lindsay. She was a perfect match, and for a while, it seemed like the answer.

"I wasn't scared," Hannah said. "I was proud that I could be the one to do it. I wasn't scared. I was more ready." For a while, they thought Hannah was the cure. Then, they found a lump.

"They kept telling me it wasn't my fault," Hannah said. "But it's scary. Every time it comes back, it's scarier."

"I guess the cancer was kind of hiding," Lindsay said. "So, then it came back, and I had cancer again."

So now, Lindsay turns to Be the Match, the national bone marrow registry. Lindsay has been accepted into an experimental trial at St. Jude in Memphis. She can't go through another round of radiation. Instead, new drugs will rid her body of cancer before the bone marrow transplant. But so far, no match. Lindsay knows what it means: "When you don't have a match, you're just going to be getting sicker and sicker until your body can't take it anymore."

For years, their Woodstock community has rallied around Lindsay, lifted her up, and bathed in her inspiration. This Sunday, they will search for a match. The "Ignite the Light for Lindsay" event in Woodstock from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday is a donor search and a celebration. They'll have bounce houses, DJs, and face painting on site. Be The Match will also be there helping people get into the national bone marrow registry.

"You just swab the inside of your mouth, and that's it. You're in the registry," Sara Simmons said.

The event will be at the Envision Health Studio at 101 Victoria N. Court in Woodstock. The owner of the facility, Laura Mikszan, has known the Simmons family for years and offered to host the event.

"I don't know," she said. "The chances may be one in a million, but that one chance could happen this Sunday."

In the five years since Lindsay's smiling face first appeared on 11Alive, she has lost weight, lost her hair, lost those years of carefree childhood. But she hasn't lost that smile. And she hasn't lost hope. "I hope people come so they can help other kids and other families so they can have their kids. So, they won't have to lose them."  

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