This is Emily Tan.
Emily's an FFTT alumnum and an accomplished movement coach. Just a few months ago, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)- the most aggressive form of leukemia. Emily needs a bone marrow transplant, but right now, no on the bone marrow registry is her match. Getting on the registry takes just a few minutes. It is painless; you stick a cotton swab your cheek- no blood involved.
During the Articulate Body Intensive we took some time to make this awareness-raising video:
Overlooking people in need is easy. When they aren’t our family or close friends, they aren’t really our problem. Even from a position of empathy, sometimes we realize we have to turn away from an emotional burden we can’t handle. We have a lot going on, and we don’t know what to do— so we do nothing.
For many see-sawing with death, the worse things get, the more people turn away from them. Out of sight, out of mind.
Sometimes love, medical, and alternative treatments are enough to bring people back from the brink. Sometimes they aren’t.
My sister died when she was nine years old. She had cancer in a time before the internet. If she had fallen ill now, she probably would have survived.
Today, my friend and inspiration Emily Lola Tan is battling the most aggressive type of Leukemia, AML.
Medicine and chemo alone are NOT her best chance of survival. She needs us to collaborate through more than ‘likes’— she needs a bone marrow donor.
With a bone marrow donation from a single person, Emily’s chances of returning to her position of vibrant and exceptional leadership are high.
But *finding* that single person is considerably more difficult for non-whites. If you are white, you have a 97% chance of finding a match. If you’re Hispanic, your chances are 80%. If you are black, your chances are only 66%.
Emily is East Asian, and 28% of all Asians in need of a donor don’t have one. Can you imagine spending all day, every day, hoping that a stranger somewhere on this planet will make a small choice that will keep you alive? Can you imagine the nights spent wondering if any of your potential matches even know about the existence of international registries of life-saving blood and marrow donors?
The odds of a match are lower for non-whites because some ethnic groups tissue types are more complex, but primarily, the shortage comes down to Awareness transformed into Action.
Our society is mostly unaware of how simple it is to swab your cheek and get listed as a potential donor.
Until my I saw a video where Emily explained her condition, I DIDN’T KNOW EITHER. I don’t ever remember hearing about it. I’ve seen plenty of blood drives but never a single campaign or drive for marrow swabbing. I'm embarrassed that I’ve been eligible to save someone’s life for nearly 20 years and I didn’t even know. That has changed.
September 12 is Emily’s birthday, and September 15 is World Marrow Donor Day. Let’s let the world know.
Most people who swab and get on the registry never have any marrow extracted. Only 1 in 430 on the registry go on to save a life, and 50% of all matches are made across borders.
I offer extreme gratitude to everyone who agreed to help make this video in the middle of their pole dance intensive: Andrea Newell, Andrea Plancarte, Lux Atl, Shira Yaziv, Jocelyn Lanea Smith, Skye Decker, Devon Detweiler, Fay Shih, Ran Jing, Aastha Gaur, Alyson Mathes, Carissa Christenson, Christina Kelly, Julia Eichler, Rachel Ess.
Special thanks to Vee Niz for taking on the central role, and to Kenneth Kao for capturing us all and turning this video around faster than any other project, ever.
Milo Hayden, your music provided the perfect soundtrack for this message.
We see ourselves in you, Emily. Your dancing moves us. We love you.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SUPPORT EMILY?
1. JOIN HER FB SUPPORT GROUP
Here you will find consistent updates from Emily and her support team. Team up and offer her attention and support: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CaringForEmilyLolaTan/
I know she hates asking for money, but cancer treatments like this are stupidly expensive, and she needs funds to help guarantee she stays with us. You can donate monthly, any amount, to keep her on her feet. I just started my contribution: https://donorbox.org/caringforemilylolatan
3. ORDER A SWAB KIT, OR GO GET TESTED TO SEE IF YOU ARE A MATCH.
No blood involved! I was shocked to learn that you can find out if you are a potential match by rubbing a swab in your cheek. IT'S THAT EASY.
Note: **If you are of East Asian descent, you are far more likely to be a match for her **
Even if you are not a match for Emily, being a part of the registry means that you may be able to save someone's life one day. In the United States there is a severe shortage of non-white donors, so especially if you are a POC, consider getting on that list. If you live in the United States, visit https://join.bethematch.org/s/landing
You'll enter some simple info, and they will mail you your swab in 3-7 days. So please, don't wait.
Get some of your questions answered here:
International friends, there are bone marrow registries all over the world, all of us can stick swabs in our mouths. Different countries use different testing agencies, but they come together in an international registry.
4. SPREAD THE WORD
Tell people and share this information. If you know people of East Asian descent, make them aware of Emily's situation. I wish I could order 1,000 swabs and start running around town with them, but they don't allow that.
5. POST A VIDEO OF YOURSELF FLOWING AN EVERYDAY ACTIVITY:
Participate in the #Move4LifeChallenge
This challenge encourages you to seize any opportunity for a little more movement, and transform mundane everyday tasks into moments of dancing/exploration/mobility challenging celebration. It was created to spread awareness, and inspired by Emily's example of finding the energy, and space to move, even from a hospital room.
Sep 15 is World Marrow Donor day, so...Flow Squad let's do this!
Share your videos on Instagram and Facebook and tag #Move4LifeChallenge #FlowtoGrowAwareness #LetLifeFlow #MakeMovementFun #EmilyLolaTanSupport
6. ORGANIZE A SWAB DRIVE
You can, however, collaborate with Be The Match and other agencies to organize a donor drive!