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Donor found, transplant done, but NJ girl with leukemia still needs your help

Anya LeFrancis
Anya LeFrancis (Photo courtesy of the LeFrancis family)

CHESTER TOWNSHIP — In March, we brought you the story of young Anya LeFrancis, who has been battling leukemia for the better part of five years. An all-out push for bone marrow donors landed what her donation center refers to as a 10 out of 10 match, but Anya is not yet in the clear.

Since undergoing a transplant in mid-June, Anya has been recovering at home, letting her body adjust. According to family friend Carolina Rodriguez, the 9-year-old is about halfway through a crucial, 100-day post-transplant period, and is still having trouble drinking, eating and fighting off nausea.

So Rodriguez and others in the community are joining forces with the donation center, DKMS, to raise money and help not only Anya’s family, but also those out there who are still desperate for donors.

One of those fundraising efforts is centered at Taylor’s Ice Cream Parlor, which is giving July proceeds from the sale of vanilla and strawberry ice creams (renamed Anya Victorious Vanilla and Anya Strong Strawberry) to the cause. July is National Ice Cream Month, which DKMS community engagement manager Melanie Freeman said is an appropriate tie-in.

“That money will enable us to celebrate (and) honor other folks who are dealing with blood cancers and blood disorders,” Freeman said, adding that while the LeFrancis family’s main concern continues to be Anya, they have consistently emphasized that others need to be helped as well.

For Rodriguez, that means continuing to try to stage fundraisers on a monthly basis. Next month, she is hoping to partner with the Girl Scouts on a series of lemonade stands in the community.

“We’re just trying to make it a little easier for them. We know this is a difficult time, but they’re staying hopeful and in good spirits,” Rodriguez said, getting choked up thinking about the LeFrancis family’s fight. “We’re doing this for Anya, but also we’re doing it for the other kids and the battle (against) leukemia or any type of child cancer.”

The continuing need for donors is not lost on Freeman, who said someone new is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer every three minutes. She stressed that the donor process remains anonymous — Anya does not know who her benefactor was — and urged those considering signing up for the registry not to be afraid of it.

“People really want to make a difference in the world, but they just don’t know how to, and this is something very simple and concrete that they can consider doing,” she said.

Patrick Lavery produces “New Jersey’s First News” and is New Jersey 101.5’s morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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