New York Daily News - February 9, 2011
A Bone Marrow Drive for Jennifer Jones Austin was led by the Reverend Al Sharpton, mother Natalie Jones and husband Shawn Austin in 2009.
A Prospect Heights community activist who grabbed headlines last year for her heroic fight against cancer has beaten the odds.
Jennifer Jones Austin, 42, captured the attention of the city last winter as she desperately searched for a bone marrow donor who could cure her deadly leukemia.
After months of searching, she finally found a match - and now, she's been cancer-free for a year.
"My life is a gift from God," said Austin, a married mother of two who has a two-decade career in community service. "I've learned to value little things and truly live in the moment."
Doctors told Austin, a senior vice president at the United Way of New York City, that she had only a 25% chance of survival when she was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2009.
That didn't stop her from fighting to live.
Instead, Austin rallied her friends and family for a three-month marrow drive that collected from 13,000 volunteer donors last winter.
She finally found a matching donor last February, but nearly perished during the grueling recovery that followed the marrow transplant.
"Coming back from that was the hardest thing I've ever done," said Austin, who was admitted to the hospital 10 times in two months last spring as her body attempted to reject the lifesaving cells.
Austin's condition stabilized this summer, and she moved back in with her family in June.
Now she's been cancer-free for a year, and doctors say the chance of a recurrence is extremely rare.
"A year without cancer is a major milestone for me," said Austin, who returned to work part-time three weeks ago.
Austin's husband is grateful for his wife's recovery, but remains concerned for others who aren't as fortunate as she was.
"Jennifer's recovery was a blessing but now we need to make sure people are aware of the need for donors," said Shawn Austin, 44, an insurance executive who led marrow drives in his wife's name last winter.
"I encourage everyone to register," said Austin. "You could save someone's life."
To register to become a possible marrow donor, visit www.bethematch.org or call (888) 638-2870.