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Baltimore Entrepreneur, Philanthropist Needs Stem Cell Transplant For Rare Cancer

Stacy M. Brown | 5/24/2019, 6 a.m.
After battling and beating thyroid cancer a decade ago, Smith has been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), and she is ...
Elise Smith, 29, has been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), and she is in critical need of a blood stem cell donor. Since a patient is more likely to match a donor who shares the similar ethnic background, Smith needs to find an African American donor in order to get the best transplant outcome. The public is encouraged to join the Be The Match Registry to help find a match for Elise and others in need of a donor. Courtesy Photo

Elise Smith enjoys life as much as anyone. Not only does the 29-year-old own Winnie’s Bakery in Baltimore, she is a state chef ambassador for the No Kid Hungry campaign, and she has been busy finishing the manuscript for her first cookbook.

However, as much as she enjoys life, Smith knows first-hand the many hardships that often come out of nowhere.

After battling and beating thyroid cancer a decade ago, Smith has been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), and she is in critical need of a blood stem cell donor.

“It [MDS] was actually from the radiation treatment that I received— radioactive iodine,” Smith said. “And, basically what that was for was my thyroid cancer that I was diagnosed with right before I turned 20.”

According to the nonprofit MDS Foundation, the disease counts as a group of diverse bone marrow disorders in which the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough health blood cells. Similar to leukemia, it is often referred to as a “bone marrow failure disorder,” and primarily affects the elderly with most patients older than 65.

“They’re finding that as late as 15 years after adolescents and young adults are treated with radiation that we’re developing all of these cancers,” Smith said.

For a transplant to happen, the entrepreneur, author and philanthropist requires a 100 percent match with her genetic market. Since a patient is more likely to match with a donor who shares the similar ethnic background, Smith needs to find an African American donor in order to get the best transplant outcome.

However, only about four percent of the participants in National Marrow Program, “Be The Match,” registry is comprised of African American donors, further underscoring the need to diversity the registry in order to help patients like Smith find a life-saving donor.

“Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and for patients with diseases like leukemia and other blood disorders, a cure exists through a blood stem cell transplant,” Lauren Miller, a PR Specialist with “Be The Match” said in a release.

Smith says she is hopeful that a match can be found.

The cancer battle hasn’t broken Smith’s spirit. She plans to finish the cookbook and get back to running her store giving back to No Kid Hungry.

“It’s something that I take very seriously. I was able to work with the organization and go on Capitol Hill with my local legislators and talk about helping to fund summer food programs, particularly in rural and city areas,” she said. “Oftentimes, the food programs especially during the school year, is the only staple meal many of these children have.”

Smith also asks everyone to take to social media in the fight against MDS and other illnesses using the #swabfortheculture, where individuals are encouraged to take a photo of themselves swabbing so that they can help spread the word via social media.

Individuals can also support Smith at Join.bethematch.org/TeamElise.

Please follow instructions listed below to join “Be The Match” registry:

  • Step 1: Text TEAMELISE (all one word) to 61474 to join the registry.
  • Step 2: Request a kit
  • Step 3: Once the swab kit is received, take a picture (boomerang, video, etc.) of you swabbing
  • Step 4: Post to social media (your instastory and/or Instagram page) sign the hashtags #teamelise #swabforelise #swabfortheculture. Tag and follow @Bethematch and @teamelise Instagram pages.
  • Step 5: Send in your kit
  • Step 6: Email your swab photo to esmith2090@gmail.com