After cancer diagnosis, staffer makes a platelet promise

Donate_PlateletsTim donated platelets a few times during the first two years he worked at Dana-Farber, but his commitment to the life-saving procedure took on new meaning in the summer of 2014.

That’s when Tim, then 52, was diagnosed with cancer.

After undergoing surgery that July to remove the tumor, he returned to work and began getting tests every few months to make sure the cancer had not returned. In need of a lift during this anxious period, he set a goal.

Through talking regularly with cancer patients in his role as senior associate director of Annual Giving in the Division of Development and the Jimmy Fund, Tim knew that one cancer-free year was considered a major milestone. He also knew that although platelets and blood products are desperately needed by patients whose own supply is diminished during treatment, those in active cancer treatment cannot donate them.

This put a moratorium on his giving, of course, but he was not deterred. Staff in the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital told him that survivors who reach the one-year mark cancer-free can start giving again; he began marking the days.

“I decided right after surgery that I would celebrate my one-year mark by donating platelets, and then start going more often,” says Tim. “When I told the doctor outside of Dana-Farber who had diagnosed me, he was surprised – he thought you had to be five years out to donate.”

As soon as a test in late 2015 declared him cancer-free for 12 months post-surgery, he emailed the Kraft Center to make an appointment. Just before Christmas, he was in a recliner at the center undergoing the relatively painless 90-minute platelet donation procedure.

“We believe that a one-year deferral after treatment in many types of cancer is a reasonable time to allow the body to heal and maximize donor safety,” says William Savage, MD, PhD, medical director of the Kraft Center. “Traditionally, a five-year deferral period was used for most types of cancer, but our evaluation showed five years was excessively conservative given how vital platelet and blood donation is to the patients here.”

Now Tim says he has a newfound appreciation both for what patients and their families go through and the tremendous support they get from Dana-Farber staff during their cancer journey. He also plans to return to the Kraft Center for monthly donations.

“Tim is just an amazing person – his passion for Dana-Farber and his appreciation for the mission really shines through in his work,” says Stacy Joseph, assistant vice president, Annual Giving. “He puts 110 percent into everything he does, and his ability to overcome his challenges and go back to donating platelets has been a tremendous source of inspiration to his colleagues and me.”

To learn more about donating platelets and blood products, go to and search on “platelets.” 

Saul Wisnia
Department of Communications, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute