Tamela puts a check on March 18th on her calendar, takes the phone in her hand and stops to think. “This could be trouble,” she says to herself. “Lord, what am I doing?” Still, she dials. “Hello, Janet?” she says to the person who picks up the other end of the line. “This is Tamela Reed. About your drive. Yes, let’s do it.”

Five years earlier, Tamela was sitting on her bed with her phone in her hand and surrounded by books, papers, print outs, a computer and a box of tissues. She had just recently learned that she had Leukemia and she was tearfully and desperately trying to call someone or some organization to get help. There had to be somebody to fill in the gaps between a normal life and what she was about to go through. Tamela made a list. It was long and getting longer everyday.

“I knew that as soon as I started chemotherapy, I would be too sick to cook, drive, shop, clean the house, do laundry, play with my kids, clean them, dress them—everything!” Tamela recalls. She was a young mom who was in the beginning stages of starting a restaurant business. Leukemia was a bomb set to detonate right in the middle of her dreams.

“I found no one! Nobody can help you!” she says, still amazed. “The hospital can do its part, but for the rest of your needs, you’re just on your own. Cancer not only destroys your body, it also destroys the other parts of your life.” When in the throws of her sickness the nausea kept her from even getting out of bed, she only had enough energy to call out to God. “Lord, if you get me through this, I will shout your name from the roof tops!”

One day a few months later, Tamela awoke to a miracle. The softball-sized tumor that protruded from her chest was suddenly and completely gone. After jumping for joy, she knew exactly what she was going to do next. “I made a promise to God if He healed me, I’d shout His name from the rooftops. So the first thing I did to fulfill my promise was to find the list I made of all the things I needed when I was going through chemo.”

Her list was used to create what has become the Rock’s Cancer C.A.R.E ministry, where Tamela and 73 volunteers come alongside cancer victims and bless them by stepping into the gaps between a person and the monster that is cancer. The ministry does everything on Tamela’s original list and much more. It has been a resounding success.

With the need so great and the ministry helping so many people, the Cancer C.A.R.E name has quickly made its way to other parts of the country. “Our name recognition is a good thing, but there is a negative attached,” says Tamela. “The need for bone marrow drives where victims hope to find their marrow match is so great, we receive requests to conduct bone marrow drives from everywhere. We have to say no to them because we aren’t set up to do it and if we said yes it would not only interrupt the care we’re giving currently, it would threaten to gobble up our ministry. We have to say no to survive.”

That is why it is so strange that when a volunteer brought to Tamela a video made by a young UCLA student named Janet Liang who was in need of a bone marrow match, Tamela ambled in. She set the computer on her lap and pressed play:

Janet sits on top of her hospital bed in San Francisco donning a knitted cap and cheeks full of tears. With her laptop perched on top of a bedside table, she looks into the camera and she speaks. “Hi everyone,” she says with a weak wave of her hand. “I just want to say…I’m so afraid of dying. It feels like I don’t have much time…”

Janet breaks down and cries, and then makes the most vulnerable of requests. If she doesn’t find a donor in the next few months, she will die. “In my head the answer was no. In my heart, however, things were different,” recalls Tamela.

But why it was different, Tamela wasn’t sure. Was it that Janet had a similar type of cancer as Tamela did?

“I have something in common with all of the cancer victims. I don’t know why I couldn’t get Janet’s face out of my mind.”

Ultimately, Tamela had to submit to what was going on. It was clear that God had placed Janet in Tamela’s path to help save her. In effect, God wanted Tamela to place Janet on her list.

“She’s our girl now,” says Tamela. “We’re just going to trust God that He’s going to do something great in her life.”

Tamela Skypes Janet. She can barely make it to the computer because of the effects of the prior day’s chemo treatment. But she wants to see Tamela face to face. She wants to say thank you. Tamela tries to convey hope, not because it’s part of what she does, but because she truly feels hopeful.

Is Tamela concerned about all of the other people who will learn of this drive and start to call? “We’ll deal with it as it happens. But that’s the future. Right now, what God has placed before us…is finding Janet a match. She just has to make it.”

March 18 is the Janet Liang Bone Marrow Drive in Rock Park behind the sanctuary. Everyone, especially Asian Americans are encouraged to attend before or after each church service and give a swab of the inside of the cheek.

See Janet’s video:


Categories: Big News, CARE, Local Events

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