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Leukemia survivor gives meaning to the goofiest day of the year

April 5, 2012

By Ignacio Lobos, Hutchinson Center External Communications Editor

On April 1, Michael Rubin sent a picture of himself and his daughter, Mallory, to all 4,000 of his fellow employees at the Hutchinson Center and its treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. An April Fools’ prank, you might think?

Not even close. Twenty-five years ago, on the goofiest day of the year, Michael sat in a hospital room receiving his sister Jude’s bone marrow cells. April Fools’ Day became his ‘Day Zero,’ a term used to describe the moment a patient receives donated cells, and the beginning of a new life.

Can you find Michael among all these survivors?

Michael has worked at the Center for more than a decade now, but for him, a day doesn’t go by without  thinking of all the people who treated his early leukemia.

It’s these warm memories that compelled him to write a note to his colleagues. “To celebrate 25 years surviving my bone marrow transplant at the Hutch, I want to thank you—for helping patients past, present and future. With gratitude, admiration and love,” he wrote.

I stopped by Michael’s office after noticing his card in my mailbox. I was puzzled as to why he would send me one. I didn’t even know him when he was going through such an incredible ordeal.

Michael is a fundraiser at the Center. Private donations that help support research are extremely important, but that was never in his mind when he sent the card, Michael said.

“I just wanted everyone at the Hutchinson Center and SCCA to know that their work is deeply appreciated. I guess I was trying to look at the big picture. It wasn’t about me. As you know, it takes a monumental effort to fight cancer, and everyone here—everyone— is helping us take small incremental steps to fulfill the Center’s mission to save lives,” he said.

So, his card made its way to world-renowned cancer researchers at the Center, the doctors and nurses who treat patients at SCCA and the security guys who always greet their co-workers with a quick smile.

Responses have been trickling in. I imagine some of my co-workers are also puzzled by Michael’s card. But some understood right away.

“I just got an email from someone who thanked me for reminding him why we are all here,” he said.

Michael is just one of many of my fellow employees who have struggled against cancer and other diseases. It’s certainly not the kind of thing you hear around the water cooler (and yes, we still have those!) but sometimes it takes someone like Michael to give us a little perspective about what’s important.

I received his card at the same time that I heard some of my colleagues talking about how we have done 14,000 transplants here. That’s quite a number.

Thanks, Michael, for helping us remember that so many people had a part in making it happen.


Petri Dish is written by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s external Communications team.

Editor’s note – Your Climb event managers produced the Transplant Survivor Reunion on Campus last July 2011.  It was life-changing to work with hundreds of survivors as they traveled long distances to return to the place of their “Day Zero.”  An unforgettable experience.

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