How Friday the 13th Saved My Brother’s Life

Yesterday, my two year old had a minor surgery. As I sat in the waiting room watching my husband sleep (he is way more relaxed than I), I couldn’t escape the the events that took place between 1987 & 1991.

What were they feeling? How did they sleep? Did they sleep? How did they get out of bed in the morning? How did they go to work? How did they remain faithful? 

And as I pondered these questions, I realized that they didn’t have a choice.

When you are a parent, you navigate rough waters with your head held high because you have to. You have no choice but to be strong for your children.

But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.  

September 13th, 1991. 

You likely woke up, glanced at the calendar (much like today) and prayed to make it through the day without any major illnesses, accidents or injuries. You were lucky if that was your fate. 

Our family’s fate was a little different. 

My parents didn’t wake up and glance at a calendar surprised to see it was Friday the 13th. They had been both anticipating and dreading this day for weeks. They knew exactly when it was coming and how it would arrive. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, who was president or if they saw a black cat. 

My brother who was seven at the time, had been in St. Louis Children’s Hospital for over week receiving high doses of chemotherapy and radiation in preparation for a bone-marrow transplant, and I, four at the time, was getting prepped to be his donor. If you are lucky enough to be unfamiliar with bone-marrow transplants (the process of replacing damaged or destroyed bone-marrow with healthy marrow stem cells) siblings have a 25% chance (1 in 4) of being your perfect match, and I was my brother’s only shot. 


My brother was initially diagnosed with leukemia (ALL) when he was three years old and after relapsing, a transplant was his only chance at living to see another year.

Somehow, my parents remained faithful to the good Lord and put their hope in the medical team, but when they learned that the transplant would take place on Friday the 13th, the initial panic set in. Everyone knows that nothing good happens on Friday the 13th, and if you have had experience with any life-threatening illness (leukemia in 1991 was definitely that) then you know the timeline is anything but flexible. So, when the oncologist tells you your seven year old’s transplant will be on Friday the 13th, you nod and say “what time?”. 


Although I was only four at the time, I distinctly remember being wheeled to my brother’s hospital room window to watch my marrow being transferred into his body. I had zero clue that I was potentially saving his life, or that I was days or weeks away from losing the person who would grow to be one of my best friends in adulthood, and give me the opportunity to be an aunt to two precious babies. 

The selfish part of of me is grateful that I was young and naive because, had I known, I don’t think my parents could have handled my emotional state along with theirs, but, then again, they’ve proved that they can handle anything. They are the two strongest people I know, and this is only a fraction of what they have endured (another story for another day).

Needless to say, the road to recovery was long, but I want this to be a story about hope and overcoming the odds. Twenty-six years later, my brother is cancer-free and working as a child-life specialist at the hospital that saved his life. He is married and has two beautiful children of his own. He continues to be healthy and thriving. 

So, this message is for myself as much as it is for you: next time you are wallowing in self-pity because your child has a cold or is teething and extra clingy, remember that you could always be in a hospital room, praying for your child’s life. 

And Friday the 13th? We will always celebrate when you come around. We will always start our day with “Happy Friday the 13th” texts and say extra prayers that our days will continue to be free of illness, accidents and injury.

 Interested in learning about how you can be a donor? Visit Be The Match 

, , , , , ,

2 Responses to How Friday the 13th Saved My Brother’s Life

  1. Sue January 13, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    what a beautiful story written by a beautiful young mom💕 Thank you

  2. J C January 14, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    I’ll never think of Friday the 13th the same way! Thanks for sharing your family’s story. It puts our lives in perspective, bringing sincere gratefulness.