By Mary Brant, Regional Communications Manager, Red Cross of Northern New England
It’s a miracle she’s still alive – and it took the COVID-19 pandemic to remind Christina Parrish of the important role generous, volunteer blood and platelet donors had in her survival. Now she’s committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure blood and platelets are available for the next person in need of a miracle.
Christina had just started a new job working as a collection’s specialist in a local bank when she began experiencing excruciating back pain. Athletic and active she chalked it up to an old sports injury, but while working out one day noticed swelling that she later learned was a tumor large enough to be visible to the human eye.
June 16, 2008 is a day Christina will never forget. She was told she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer and could only expect to live another three to six months if her treatment was successful. She refused to accept this diagnosis. Christina is a fighter.
Battling fatigue and nausea, Christina began a rigorous schedule of chemotherapy, CT scans and blood and platelet transfusions. For the next three and a half years she would endure rounds of chemotherapy. Her last treatment was in December 2011. Christina is now a 13-year cancer survivor and likes to remind friends and family that she’s “still around to make a difference.”
The Purple Iris Foundation was born from her long and often grueling experience battling pancreatic cancer. The goal is to help raise awareness and support fellow cancer patients along their journeys.
“My experience battling pancreatic cancer increased my faith, gave me wisdom and started me planting purple irises to provide support to other individuals in the midst of their own cancer battles,” says Christina. “I found myself thinking about the people who had donated the blood and platelets that helped save my life, and I wanted to be sure that those blood products were available for the next person who needed them.”
Individuals undergoing cancer treatment use up to 25% of the nation’s blood products.
“I encourage everyone reading this to go to RedCrossBlood.org to learn the many different ways that you can support the Red Cross and cancer patients,” said Christina. “I never expected to need blood and platelet transfusions but I’m so grateful they were there when I needed them. I am now a proud blood-drive sponsor and I would encourage others to explore the many ways you can support the work of the Red Cross.”