Grandmother walks across country to inspire bone marrow donors

During a stop in Malibu, Jeana Moore spoke to Pepperdine University students about donating bone marrow. The university will host the Relay for Life bone marrow drive on April 16.

By McKenzie Jackson / Special to The Malibu Times

Every step Jeana Moore takes gets her closer to spreading the word about the importance of bone marrow transplants and donors.

Last week, the 57-year-old grandmother from Deer Park, Wash. paced herself down Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu on March 25 on her way to New York City.

Moore, who is in the midst of a 5,000-mile walk from Seattle to the Big Apple, said she is walking across the country in response to her lone granddaughter, Jaden Bascom, being born with leukemia in April 2007.

“She was diagnosed at seven-months-old,” she said. “Only one person in the world matched her as a donor-a 30-year-old man from Germany. We are so fortunate; only two out of 10 leukemia patients will find a match. Eight will die.”

Moore, an interpreter for the deaf and an avid walker before her trip, said she wants to help more leukemia patients find donors by inspiring 20,000 people to become bone marrow donors.

“I really want to help the families who have loved ones waiting on the National Bone Marrow registry,” she said. “I want to talk to people face-to-face about being screened, so that is why I began the walk.”

Leukemia is cancer of the blood that causes damage to bone marrow by displacing regular bone marrow cells with a high number of immature white blood cells. This weakens a person’s immune system to infections and diseases, and can lead to death.

According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, in 2009 an estimated 139,860 Americans were diagnosed with leukemia or a similar blood cancer and an estimated 53, 240 died from the diseases.

Along with leukemia, there are 40 diseases that require bone marrow transplants. The screening process features a cotton swab taking a cell sample from the inside of a person’s mouth.

Moore said before Jada was diagnosed, her family was not familiar with leukemia and bone marrow transplants.

“When we found out she had leukemia we went into complete shock, because we had no idea of the world we were stepping into,” she said.

Moore’s “Steps to Tomorrow” walk, which is sponsored by the Jada Bascom Foundation, started in honor of the two-year-old leukemia survivor, began on Oct. 19, 2009. She hopes to stride into New York by Jan. 24, 2011.

Five months into her journey, Moore has traveled through Washington, Oregon and Northern California, while carrying a 35-pound backpack stuffed with food, water, clothes, toiletry, extra shoes, a tent and sleeping bag.

While traveling along major roadways and interstates, she wears a reflective jacket that was given to her by a fire department in Washington.

Moore relies on the kindness of friends and strangers for meals, and talks with everyone she meets about the screening process for potential bone marrow donors and joining the National Bone Marrow Registry.

She has also helped organize donor drives and begun working with the registry.

Moore, who crossed into California on Dec. 26, tweets and writes about her trip on the Internet through her Web site, stepstomarrow.livejournal.com.

While in Malibu, Moore said she gave away more than 100 informational cards, while talking to people about transplant testing.

She also stopped at Pepperdine University and talked with students about bone marrow transplants. On April 16 the university is holding, “The Relay for Life,” a bone marrow drive.

After spending the night on the lawn at the Los Angeles County Fire Station No. 70 in Malibu, Moore walked until she reached Santa Monica before family members picked her up. She is currently staying with her brother, Boude Moore, and his family in North Hills until mid-April.

Boude said his sister’s walk is important.

“If only 700 people signed up, maybe one in a 100 of those would be a match and that would prevent seven people from dying,” he said.

Moore and her brother set up a bone marrow drive on March 28 at a church in Woodland Hills.

While in the Los Angeles area she will also be visited by Jada, whose birthday is on April 16, and her son-in-law, who are flying to Southern California. They will visit with Moore from March 30 to April 9, thanks to a donated plane ticket.

Moore said Jada’s leukemia is in remission.

“She is off all medication and is feeling very good,” she said. “She has no developmental delays from all the treatments, which is astounding because she has had five chemotherapy treatments and countless transfusions.”

Moore walks about 12 to 15 miles a day. She said she talks with someone everyday about bone marrow transplants and often runs across people who the disease has personally affected.

After crossing into Arizona, Moore will walk through at least ten more states.

She said the important thing is letting people know how to become a donor.

“I just want to register as many donors as we can,” Moore said. “I want to have people not wait until it affects their family for them to become a donor. Don’t wait another day, register today.”

More information about donating bone marrow can be found online at www.marrow.org. The Pepperdine University Relay for Life drive will take place on campus April 16, beginning at 5 p.m., until April 17, 5 p.m. More information can be obtained online at main.ascevents.org

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