Ah, yes. Age 22. I remember that. Barely.
Finishing up college. Had the world by the seat of the pants on the downhill pull. Not a care in the world. Except for making sure not to miss the next opportunity to have a good time.
And in that self-centered world of revelry, I dare say that nary a thought was given to saving someone’s life, like most 22-year-olds.
But Cameron Lyle isn’t like most 22-year-olds.
Lyle’s is a senior at the University of New Hampshire. For the past four years, he’s been a weight man on the Wildcats’ track team. At 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, Lyle was pretty much built to throw the shot, fling the discus, and throw the hammer.
Beginning his freshman year, Lyle scored team points by finishing sixth or better in the shot put or hammer throw, sometimes both, in every America East Conference championship meet, indoors or out.
He was really looking forward to the conference championships this spring. He finished third in the shot at the indoor championships, and added a second-place finish in the hammer. Lyle figured he’d be right in the mix to finally win a conference crown this spring.
He never got the chance to compete.
During the spring of his sophomore year, Lyle stopped by Memorial Union to have his mouth swabbed. His sample results were placed in the National Marrow Donor Program’s database.
That should have been the end of the story. What are the odds of being a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant with someone who isn’t a family member?
Five million to one. But Cameron Lyle beat the odds.
He was contacted a few months ago for more blood work. Then he was told he was a perfect match to a 28-year-old male suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“I knew right away, I was going to donate,” Lyle told Alex Lippa of the North Andover (Ma.) EagleTribune. “He has six months to live, and I have the possibility to buy him a couple more years.”
With the surgery scheduled for April 24 at Massachusetts General Hospital, Lyle had to make another sacrifice.
He’d miss the America East track championships that took place earlier this month, and the New England championships a week later. Donors can’t lift more than 20 pounds for several weeks after the surgery.
That meant Lyle had to undergo a procedure he dreaded more than the operation itself. He had to tell his track coach, Jim Boulanger, that he’d miss the two biggest meets of the spring.
Boulanger’s serious about New Hampshire track and field. He graduated from the school, served as an assistant track coach there for three years, and became head coach in 1982. After 30 years, Boulanger is New Hampshire track and field.
But Boulanger’s response came instantly. “I told him, you either do 12 throws in the conference championships,” Boulanger told Christine Salek of policymic.com, “or, you give another man a few more years.
“It was easy for me.”
All that remained was for Lyle to inform his mom.
“He’s my hero,” Christine Sciacca told Salek. “I couldn’t be more proud of him, and how he’s been so humble about it.”
Despite mom’s praise, it’s been hard to be humble with appearances on the network’s morning news shows, and the story hitting national publications.
Last week, Lyle was featured in Steve Rushin’s Point After piece in Sports Illustrated.
But as he told Rushin, “I didn’t do this for the media attention,” he said. “I’ve been saying to everyone I’ve talked to that I want to think about the guy who was dying of leukemia.”
Friday, he met with US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). She read Lyle’s story into the Congressional Record.
“Cameron’s decision truly demonstrates the strength of his character,” declared Shaheen. “I know that residents of New Hampshire are extremely proud of Cameron and admire him for making such an important choice.”
An important choice we all could make. Some numbers produced by Salek: 2000 people are called each year to donate bone marrow, and over 70 percent of bone marrow donations come from the national bone marrow registry.
Sadly, only two percent of all Americans are listed in the registry. At any given moment, 7,500 people are searching the registry for a match. At least 1000 people will die each year because they didn’t receive a transplant.
The beautiful part is that any of us can step up and be a hero like Cameron Lyle. It’s easy. You can take a moment today to visit www.marrow.org. They’ll send you a kit after you submit your information and make a small tax-deductable donation.
You might just wind up saving a life. Now, that’s an opportunity to have a good time.
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears on Thursday.