During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the American Red Cross urges eligible donors to give blood or platelets to provide hope and healing to patients fighting cancer.

In August 2016, Myel Bowers-Smith went to the doctor for what she thought was a breast infection for a mosquito bite after a vacation in Cancun. Instead, she received the devastating diagnosis – she had stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer, a very rare and aggressive breast carcinoma. Bowers-Smith, a U.S. Army veteran, committed to fighting for her life. “Once I began fighting, I knew I had to remain strong,” she said. Her aggressive care plan included five different chemotherapy treatments and steroids.

Like many patients with cancer, Bower-Smith needed multiple blood product transfusions. Cancer patients undergoing surgery and chemotherapy may require red blood cell or platelet transfusions. In fact, more than half of all platelets collected by the Red Cross are used by patients with cancer.

After months of grueling treatments, in August 2017, Bowers-Smith celebrated the news that her cancer was in remission. Today, she enjoys sharing her story and encouraging others to be a blessing by donating blood or platelets. “Eligible donors, you have something good – which is your blood. A pint of blood can help save lives.”

Donors of all blood types, especially platelet donors and those with type O blood, are needed to ensure a stable supply for cancer patients and others this fall. Appointments can be made by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

As a thank-you, those who come to give blood or platelets during the month of October will automatically be entered for a chance to win one of five $500 gift cards redeemable at hundreds of merchants, courtesy of Tango Card. Terms apply; see rcblood.org/game.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities in our area Oct. 16-31

Cascade County

Belt

10/16/2019: 2:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m., Belt High School, 1 Church Street

Great Falls

10/28/2019: 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Great Falls Clinic, 3000 15th Ave South

Pondera County

Conrad

10/17/2019: 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Conrad Mission Church, 205 2nd Avenue N.W.

How to donate blood

Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

 Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

Volunteers needed

Another way to support the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross is to become a volunteer transportation specialist and deliver lifesaving blood products to local area hospitals. Volunteer transportation specialists play a very important role in ensuring an ample blood supply for patients in need by transporting blood and blood products. For more information and to apply for a volunteer transportation specialist position, please visit rdcrss.org/driver.