NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

November 22, 2013

Drive to honor woman in need of bone marrow transplant

When Cathy Sheehan was diagnosed with leukemia in April, her co-workers at Latitude Sports Club in Salisbury wanted to help.

Fitness director Stephanie Bearse suggested at the time that they could have a bone marrow registry drive should Sheehan need a transplant. However, it turned out that Sheehan’s younger brother, Christopher Habeeb, was a perfect match, so when she did need the transplant in June, he was her donor.

Now, seven months later, Sheehan, 44, needs a second bone marrow transplant. Though the first transplant was successful and she went into remission for a couple of months, the cancer has returned. Habeeb is ineligible to donate again, and there is no match in the national Be the Match Registry for the former Merrimac and Newburyport resident.

After hearing the news, Sheehan’s good friend and fellow spin instructor Tanya Vecchi asked Bearse if the offer to host a drive was still good.

It was, and the Elm Street gym has teamed up with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for a bone marrow registry drive tomorrow from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

“Even if one person gets registered, it’s one additional person that could save somebody’s life,” Vecchi said.

Sheehan, who lives in Boxford, thought she was fine when she went in this spring to see a new doctor, Lydia Jeffcoat, in Newburyport, for a routine appointment. She had been going to Boston for her medical care but wanted to switch to a place closer to home.

After getting a booster shot for whooping cough, Sheehan noticed a week later that she was feeling really tired and was sometimes short of breath after going up or down stairs. Though she attributed the fatigue to being a working mother of three, she was concerned enough to call Jeffcoat, who suggested she come in for blood work.

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