“12,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) every year and the risk increases with age.” (WebMD).

Michael Poalillo, at just fifty nine years old was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). According to The National Cancer Institute, “myelodysplastic syndrome is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells and there are abnormal (blast) cells in the blood and/or bone marrow. In a patient with a myelodysplastic syndrome, the blood stem cells (immature cells) do not become healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. These immature blood cells, called blasts, do not work the way they should and either die in the bone marrow or soon after they go into the blood. This leave  less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets to form in the bone marrow. When there are fewer healthy blood cells, infection, anemia, or easy bleeding may occur.”

For the Paolillo Family, this kind of news turned their world upside down, but at a time when things could easily fall apart, prayers, strength and hope held their family together. Like the strength of Michael’s daughter Ciara Poalillo and his niece, Rachael Bianco, who launched a website to raise funds and awareness for Michael and other victims of myelodysplastic syndrome. Part of the funds raised support Michael and his family, largely due to the high financial burdens from the medications and chemotherapy treatment. The remaining funds are donated to the MDS Foundation. They are also in contact with the MDS foundation to try and set up a walk for MDS in New York City.

With their platform, Ciara and Rachael continue to raise awareness so that people are well informed and better prepared. They also hope to give  insight on the importance of bone marrow and stem cell donations. Currently, Michael is waiting on a bone marrow donor. While the donor pool is small,  it is yet larger for Caucasian males rather than minorities. They hope to change this through awareness. Today, they are working with (an organization dedicated to helping connect bone marrow donors with those in need) to help solve this problem.

Their circumstance is one of great struggle but also a beacon of hope due to their will to fight. They  requested that I share  facts about MDS along with their story so others may know the prevalence of this cancer. According to  Web MD, some of the symptoms which include: “fatigue, unusual bleeding, bruises and tiny red marks under the skin, paleness, shortness of breath during physical activity.” According to the National Cancer Institute, “some of the risks with getting this disease are, past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, being exposed to certain chemicals including tobacco smoke, pesticides, fertilizers, and solvents such as benzene, or being exposed to heavy metals; such as mercury and lead. Yet the causes of most MDS in most patients is not known.” Lastly, the American Society of Clinical Oncology says, “a high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell / bone marrow transplantation is the only current treatment that can produce a long-term remission.” This shows the immense importance and need for bone marrow donations for these patients. To donate funds or bone marrow, please visit (as previously mentioned).

Their story reminds us of three vital things, cherish your life, cherish your loved ones, and do all you can to help others in need.

Learn More and Donate
Learn more about MDS Foundation
Please donate to the Michael Poalillo and Family

From the Editor
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