- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - When Adam Myers and Sloan Braith get married Saturday, they’ll have a special guest present: The man whose bone marrow made their big day possible.

Jeremy Gitzlaff, of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, donated the marrow last year that’s credited with saving Myers’ life from leukemia. Myers and Gitzlaff have been communicating via texts, email and Facebook this summer, but the wedding at scenic William O’Brien State Park will be the first time they’ve spoken.

The two men said Friday they expect it will be an emotional meeting for both of them - as well as the bride.

“She said she’s not going to put her mascara on until she meets him because she knows she’s going to bawl her eyes out,” Myers said.

Myers, 31, a cellphone and satellite TV salesman from North Branch, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 2012. It wasn’t his first bout with cancer. His doctors think he got leukemia from radiation treatment two years earlier for skin cancer that had settled in his lymph nodes. They decided a bone marrow transplant was his best hope.

Gitzlaff, 30, is an Iraq War veteran who served six years in the Marine Corps Reserve. He’s now an industrial maintenance worker and an off-road truck racer who competes in northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan. He was at a race a couple years ago when he passed a table in the pit area where someone was promoting marrow donation.

“I’ve been donating blood most of my adult life … and decided it would be a good thing to do as well,” he said.

So Gitzlaff signed up via BloodCenter of Wisconsin, one of many affiliates around the country of the National Marrow Donor Program, which operates Be The Match.

“It’s really easy. All you’ve got to do is sign up. They send you a little package with cotton swabs. You just send it right back,” he said.

Within a just few months the registry matched Gitzlaff with Myers. He got his transplant May 3, 2013.

Myers said the first year afterward was “pretty rough” because he frequently got sick but he’s much better now.

“I have no signs of cancer at all,” Myers said. “I’m feeling better every day.”

BloodCenter of Wisconsin says more than 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed annually with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia that call for bone marrow transplants. Only 30 percent can find matching relatives. The other 70 percent need to search the Be The Match registry, which has about 60,000 potential donors on file. Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds and young donors are especially needed. Registering takes less than 30 minutes.

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Online:

Be The Match: https://www.BeTheMatch.org

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