Young actress Shannon Tavarez, who performed in the Broadway production of The Lion King, was diagnosed with AML leukemia in April of 2010 after noticing pain in her lower back and legs. Today the sad news was released that Shannon lost her fight with cancer at 11 years of age.
Tavarez was in need of a bone-marrow transplant, a situation complicated by her African-American/Dominican heritage (she needed a genetic match). Both groups are underrepresented in the registry of potential bone-marrow donors. According to the National Bone Marrow Program, of the 7 million Americans listed as donors, only 7 percent are African-American, 3 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent Asian.
Both Alicia Keys and Rihanna campaigned on Shannon's behalf to get the transplant she needed, but doctors were unable to find a match. As an alternative, Shannon received an umbilical-cord blood transplant in late August. She had also undergone extensive chemotherapy in an effort to combat the disease.
In July she spoke of her love for theater performance, saying of her role in The Lion King,
It's a great feeling, performing for people and being young Nala, because she's tough and I feel like that's who I am through this whole experience.
This story resonates with me not only for the heartbreaking fact that a child died much too young, but because my husband and I have family friends who lost their daughter to the same disease. She was only a couple years older than Shannon, and the cancer took her with the same awful swiftness—after they scrambled to find a donor to no avail.
It's too late to save Shannon Tavarez, but please watch her video and consider registering as a blood-marrow donor. Find out how at GetSwabbed.org.
Image via YouTube