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Hitting for Ceci

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Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2010 2:00 pm

It started with a tennis match when Carolyn "Ceci" Christenson couldn't move and play the way she normally would. This was the first warning sign that something in her body was amiss.

It was after she began losing weight that Christenson went to the hospital for a blood test. The test, taken in early 2009, revealed that her body had only about half the blood that she should have.

For six months she went undiagnosed until doctors concluded that the 15-year-old Christenson had a form of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a disorder in which bone marrow does not produce blood cells properly. Treatment for MDS requires a stem cell transplant.

Fortunately for Christenson, both of her brothers were perfect matches and she went ahead with the transplant last December.

"I am now 100 percent Ryan (her brother)," Christenson said. "My blood is all his. I was lucky."

After the month-long stay in the hospital surrounding the transplant, Christenson discovered how lucky she really was.

"I researched it and right now only about 40 percent of people, who need the transplant I needed, get it," she said.

Christenson, 17, saw overwhelming support from her friends and family throughout the entire ordeal and up until today. This includes a childhood friend, Mountain Pointe student and baseball player, Joey Curletta, who will be hitting home runs for her at an upcoming charity event.

Curletta was invited to the fifth annual Home Runs that Help event at Chase Field on Dec. 28 and 29.

"She's very strong about it all, she doesn't let it bring her down," Curletta, 16, said.

Home Runs that Help benefits the Make a Wish Foundation and is made possible by the Power Showcase International High School Home Run Derby, which Curletta will be participating in, in the name of Christenson. Each of the 110 contestants donate $50 and at the end of the competition an estimated $5,000 will be given to the Make a Wish Foundation.

"It's definitely motivation to go out there and hit for Ceci," he said. "When I first heard about (her diagnosis), it was pretty scary. We were really good friends. I didn't know what to think, or how bad it was."

Christenson wants to spread the word about the National Marrow Donor Program, a registry which matches up applicants, like her, with potential donors.

"We have the power to change things and we shouldn't wait around because there are people out there who need a transplant today," she said. "I just want people to be aware of what is going on and how they can help someone."

All it takes to find out if you can be a donor is a visit to the website, www.Marrow.org. If a person meets the age and health requirements, they can request a kit that consists of a swab to use on the inside of the cheek. If, after the swab is received and tested, the applicant is approved they are placed on the list of donors.

"My hope is to get as many people as possible to get on the registry," Christenson said.

Because of a setback in her progress to return to health, she will be unable to meet her goal of returning to high school this year and must remain mostly isolated for at least six more months. However, she is taking an online class and staying active.

"I have just had unbelievable support from my friends and family," Christenson said. "It's so inspirational when someone loves you and they want you to keep fighting."

Her match-up with Curletta seems perfect as Christenson is a huge baseball fan.

"I thought that was the sweetest thing when he said he was going to hit for me," she said. "Our family is full of baseball players and fans."

To follow Christenson's story, visit her blog, www.CecisClimb.com.

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