Perfect Match Saves Tulsa Woman's Life After Chemo Triggers Leukemia

Thursday, January 9th 2020, 3:37 pm
By: LeAnne Taylor

Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the most challenging times in a person's life. A Tulsa woman overcame the odds only to have a second obstacle in her path.     

Liz Busten was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She underwent a lumpectomy, four rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation. Liz thought she was in the clear, but 12 years after breast cancer, Liz felt fatigued and she knew something wasn't right.

“I had therapy induced AML, or Acute Myloid Leukemia. It was triggered by the chemo that I had 12 years prior for my breast cancer," Liz said.

Now facing cancer of the blood, Liz's doctor thought her best chance for long-term survival would be a bone marrow transplant. Through the National Bone Marrow Registry, “Be the Match,” Liz was matched to two prospects. One of those matches was Kerry Tubbs.

"The process is they contact you and if you're an initial match, you go to a lab locally. They take some blood and run initial tests to make sure you are the best match," said Kerry.

He had donated blood as part of community service for his fraternity, back when he went to the University of Kansas. At that time, Kerry was also asked if he'd be a bone marrow donor and he marked yes. 18 years later, Kerry got the call.

"I'd been an initial match before, but this was the time that I was the best. The perfect match," Kerry said.

While Kerry's bone marrow was being harvested on January 4th, 2017, Liz was in the hospital getting prepped. She received the bone marrow the next day and was in the hospital for nearly a month. All the while, the donor and recipient relationship was still a secret.

"As a donor, they prepare you ahead of time that sometimes it doesn't work and they want you to also be prepared that you may save someone's life, or it may just not be meant to be. So, they send you an update after the procedure," said Kerry.

The status update came right before Kerry ran in the Boston Marathon. He wasn't sure he wanted to know, but ultimately discovered the transplant was a success.

Over the next year, Liz and Kerry sent each other emails, notes and cards. They eventually agreed they wanted to meet, so they were connected through They met face-to-face for the first time during the Route 66 marathon weekend back in November.

With friends cheering her on and Kerry waiting, they embraced at the finish line.

"I just kept thinking this whole week - it's just surreal," said Liz. "To say thank you to someone who saved my life."

"Sharing stories like this is hopefully what gets people to be able to find their matches," Kerry said.


Related Video: Liz Busten sits down with News On 6's LeAnne Taylor to discuss her experience of battling cancer twice and finding a perfect Be The Match donor. 



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