Blood donors rarely get the opportunity to meet the patient(s) on the other side of their blood donation, yet they give willingly, taking comfort in the fact that someone in their community gets a second chance at life.
Carter BloodCare is sometimes afforded the opportunity to meet the patients who’ve benefitted from donor blood and have the privilege of sharing their story. Each story is different, real and inspiring, showing us that the gift of blood is priceless.
Meet Jared Lacy
Goodwin and Company community manager, Jared Lacy, is a proud son, brother, husband and friend of many who realizes that his ability to live today comes from the generous blood donors who, knowingly and unknowingly, helped him in his time of need.
At 16-years-old, Jared lived the life of any normal teenager – a Lewisville high school student, a new driver and owner of a car, working part-time and hanging out with friends. Until one day at work, a sharp pain pierced Jared’s side, prompting his manager to call his mother.
“By the time my shift was over, I was doubled over in pain,” said Jared. “My manager had a feeling it was my appendix.”
Jared was rushed to the emergency room at Lewisville Hospital, where he found out his appendix expanded to nine centimeters in length. The doctors called for an emergency appendectomy to remove it.
Post-surgery, Jared wasn’t recovering normally and had to remain in the hospital, which led he and his mother to believe something else was wrong.
During the remainder of Jared’s stay at Lewisville Hospital, his mother reported back to work, where a cautious nudging from a fellow employee led Mrs. Lacy to Dr. Mary Milam of Fort Worth Oncology.
“My mother’s employee begged my mother saying, ‘I know you don’t want to think about this right now but I want you to go see Dr. Milam,’” said Lacy. “‘Even if it’s not what we think, she can point you in the right direction.’”
Contrary to the doctors’ wishes, Jared’s mother rushed him across town to Dr. Milam’s office where he received a bone marrow test, ordered STAT. Within 24 hours, Dr. Milam had Jared’s diagnosis: stage IIIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, an immune system cancer. He was scheduled for chemotherapy immediately after receiving the results.
“At 16-years-old, I didn’t really understand what was going on, or where this could lead to,” said Jared. “But my mother knew.”
Jared spent the next six months in chemotherapy.
“I had multiple hospital stays and was just tired of being poked and prodded on,” said Jared. “At sixteen I cared about hanging out with friends, going to parties, prom and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t really want to do chemo but I had no choice.”
Not only did the chemotherapy sessions take a toll on him but his family as well.
“It was as much a scary time for my family as it was for me,” said Jared. “I shared a room with my brother Sam and remember him always checking on me, we would lay awake and talk at night about the things that we would do when we got older. My brother’s Jack, Matt and Sam never let me give up, even when I felt so sick I could hardly function, they were always by my side. This may have been a disease that effected only my body, but what the cancer didn’t realize is the Lacy family is full of fighters and we would not give up. Not only would I be a survivor, but we would be a family of survivors.”
While times looked grim for Jared and his family, a glimmer of hope came from the many people who knew and supported them. Some of Jared’s mother’s former colleagues nominated their family for Make a Wish of North Texas and they were selected!
“All six of us, four boys and two parents, got to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii,” said Jared. “I still remember that trip, it was a time that we as a family got a chance to forget about the disease and focus on family.”
Luckily that once-in-a-lifetime trip signaled better times to come, as six months later he finally entered remission.
Jared’s warrior spirit made him resilient – a trait he would rely on later.
To Fight Again
Five years later, Lacy, now a 21-year-old college student and bartender, lost 50 pounds in just one month. His restaurant manager, family and friends took notice and urged Jared to visit the doctor.
Once again, Jared and his family sought help from Dr. Milam, where she re-diagnosed him within 24 hours. He now had stage VB of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“I was at the very last stages of Hodgkin’s,” said Jared. “The doctor let us know that I was in grave danger. The cancer was too far advanced to really do anything about it. Eventually, if I continued chemo, it would just make me weaker. We knew that it wouldn’t save my life at this point, but we knew we had to fight.”
Before referring Jared to the Zale Lipshy Hospital at UT Southwestern for chemotherapy treatment, Milam mentioned the only thing that might treat his cancer was receiving a T-cell transplant. With this information and the steadfast motivation of his family, Jared decided to fight again.
Setback and Resilience
Funding came through Medicare in October of 2003, right after his diagnosis, and Jared got approved to have a T-cell transplant for November 2, 2003.
A day before his November 2 transplant date, Jared and his father went to check into the hospital. Unfortunately, things took a swift turn when they were informed that his Medicare coverage denied. Hopeless, Jared and his father took the dreary ride home to break the news to the family.
“I remember driving home with dad and saying ‘look, I’m tired,’” said Jared. “’I’ve done all this chemotherapy and my body is just tired, I’m done. I don’t want to fight anymore.”
When Jared got home and broke the news about Medicare and his decision to let the lymphoma run its course, his family was unhappy to say the least. His mother being the fighter she is contacted Medicare and Jared’s approval for the transplant was reapproved and scheduled to begin treatment two days later.
“My mother’s always been the biggest advocate for me, and not once did it waver,” said Jared.
Down to the Wire
Preparation for Jared’s T-cell transplant included rounds of blood work and connecting to an apheresis machine that would separate his T cells. The next 14 days he received intense chemotherapy.
“The chemo I had was so intense, it brought me literally within inches of my life.”
Following the 14-day chemotherapy Jared’s doctors went about replacing the T cells extracted. He had to remain under supervision and treatment for another 35 days, bringing his hospital stay to two months. During Lacy’s t-cell transplant, he underwent four to five blood transfusions. Jared’s family would once again come to his rescue, Jared said “I remember my brothers coming home from college just to take turns staying with me in the hospital room. I was not supposed to leave the floor or eat food that was not prepared by the hospital. My brother Matt, was able to sneak me off of the floor and took me to the fast food restaurant that was connected to the hospital.”
The blood available to him during treatment came from anonymous volunteers and his mother’s new co-workers hosted a Carter BloodCare blood drive in Jared’s honor.
“If I didn’t have that blood, there would’ve been no way I would’ve survived that intense chemo,” said Jared “The chemo plus all of the other medications I had to take to even function, if it had not been for the blood drive, I don’t think there would’ve been a positive outcome.”
A Brighter Future
At the time of Jared’s transplant, the cancer-free rate after T-cell therapy wasn’t high; two out of every three people were re-diagnosed within a six-month to one-year timeframe. With Jared’s determination and above-standard hospital care, he beat the odds and was cured of lymphoma.
“In 2023, I will be 20 years cancer-free,” said Jared.
Because of Jared’s family, blood donors, doctors and many supporters Jared can live a life that would not have been possible. Jared married his husband in 2018 and is grateful for his second chance at life, he uses every opportunity he has to give back and be a blood donation advocate.
“Every 10 years of being cancer-free, I throw a large casino party to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation of North Texas,” said Jared. “It’s just a simple way of giving back, since it was done for me.”
While Jared is unable to give blood, he motivates others to give by hosting Carter BloodCare blood drives regularly with his HOAs. His last one was held September 26, 2019.
Message to Blood Donors
Now, a two-time cancer survivor, Jared hopes his story helps donors understand the true difference their blood makes.
“It honestly does save,” said Jared. “You as the donor don’t get to see the other side and see the person live. To be able to stand here today, it’s just so important. Even though you don’t know where your blood’s going, you’re still saving a life. Your blood is not going to waste.”
To Jared Lacy: Thank you for sharing your story with us and our donors. We wish you an abundance of happiness and look forward to your 20th anniversary of health in 2023!