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How Hispanic Donors Can Help Save this Woman’s Life

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Wanda-Tábora-Tirado-Be-the-Match
Photos: Courtesy of Be the Match

Wanda Tábora Tirado has dedicated her life to helping the community. Now she’s asking the community to help her

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Wanda, 51, was diagnosed in August 2020 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow affecting white blood cells. The condition progresses quickly and worsens if not treated.

A 20-year survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Wanda received her ALL diagnosis during her annual checkup, when routine bloodwork showed her white blood cell count was off. Her only symptom was fatigue. An oncologist confirmed the diagnosis. 

She received treatments, including chemotherapy and immunotherapy, but both the cancer and treatments have been painful. These days, her ALL is in remission but Wanda continues to feel tired and has body aches. 


As a member of our registry, you’ll be joining a unique team of potential blood stem cell donors.


She’s searching for a blood stem cell donor—the only cure for her leukemia. She says a transplant will give her “total healing.”

“The transplant eliminates all the genetically damaged cells,” she says through a translator. “And that transplant creates a new immune system. As long as I don’t have a transplant, I’m going to have to depend on chemotherapy.”

Searching for a donor

Ethnicity matters when finding a match. Proteins in the body called human leukocyte antigens (HLA), which are used in matching, are inherited. Also, some ethnic groups have more complex tissue types.

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That means Wanda’s best chance for a match is to find a donor who shares her same ethnic background. The Honduras native, who lives in Puerto Rico, is looking for a donor with Hispanic heritage.

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It’s been challenging, though. According to Be The Match®, which matches patients with donors, educates health care professionals and conducts research, Hispanic patients have a 48% chance of finding a donor on the Be The Match Registry®, compared to of white patients.

While her friends have been tested, none are a match.


If you’re matched with someone in need, you could save a life.


“It has been very difficult,” Wanda says, explaining it’s been an emotional search. “A lot of emotions, from sadness, concern to also hope, insecurity.”

How Hispanic Donors Can joining the registry

Wanda and Be The Match want more people to sign up for the registry, which is free and easy. Ideal donors are ages 18 to 35. 

“The easiest way to help people with blood diseases is through Be The Match because the cells for bone marrow transplantation cannot be donated so easily anywhere,” she says.

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The first step is providing a cheek swab. The swab will be tested to determine the donor’s HLA type. If a donor is a potential match, the non-profit, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program®, will provide patients and their families with education, support and guidance before, during and after transplant.

The lottery

Wanda, who has an EdD in education and an MPHE in public health, is dedicated to educating the community about health and well-being. She’s served as a health missionary in Latin America and is currently a program director at a clinic. 


The world needs more people like you who are willing to help save a life.


During her diagnosis and treatments, she’s continued to work. The educator loves to read, spend time with friends and family, and hang out with her kitten, Bebo. 

She’s optimistic about finding a donor.

“The hope is that a compatible donor will appear, because we are thousands and thousands of people and if you find a donor, it is like a lottery,” she says. “The lottery does not know who will win a bet on it. I put the good faith and the good heart into the generosity of the people of planet Earth.”

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To register with Be The Match, go to my.BeTheMatch.org/PlanetWanda.

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