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Rihanna, Alicia Keys supporting young Broadway star who knows cancer

Young Shannon Tavarez, who had been performing as “Young Nala” in Broadway’s The Lion King, knows cancer. In April, Tavarez was diagnosed with leukemia after her legs began to hurt, and walking and dancing became difficult, to say the least.

Now, music superstars Rihanna and Alicia Keys have teamed up to help Tavarez, who says news of her diagnosis “really hit me hard.” Tavarez requires a lifesaving bone marrow transplant, and Rihanna and Alicia Keys are speaking out on Tavarez’s behalf.

Keys, who is expecting her first child and visited Tavarez while she received her daily chemo treatments at a Long Island hospital on July 2nd, says that it’s obvious that Tavarez is “fighting for her life.”

“For her, the sky is the limit,” Keys said. She hopes that Tavarez will be able to grow up and continue to live her dream of being a performer.

Rihanna agrees. “Tavarez should be performing on Broadway, but is confined to her bed, fighting for her life. She needs to find a bone marrow donor to survive. I urge all my fans to register [as donors],” she told People Magazine.

Those interested in becoming a bone marrow donor should check out The National Marrow Donor Program, which maintains the national registry here in the US. Before you join, you’ve got to know the facts. Once you join, doctors from across the world can request you as a marrow match for their patient, and you may be approached and asked to donate bone marrow or blood cells [a process known as PBSC donation]. African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and those of multiple races are in high demand, according to www.marrow.org.

Donation can occur in one of two ways: either bone marrow is extracted surgically from the donor’s pelvic bones using a special needle under general anesthesia, or peripheral blood cells will be removed through a needle in the donor’s arm. Blood is then drawn and processed through a machine that separates cells ready for transplant from other cells, and blood is then returned to the donor’s body through their other arm. Some donors have pain in the site where either their marrow or blood was extracted for a few days, but recovery time is short.

Rihanna hopes her fans will join the registry. “It’s the most beautiful thing someone could do, to give the gift of life.”

You can learn more by following the National Marrow Donor Program on Twitter @BeTheMatch. You can also follow Do You Know Cancer on Twitter for the latest cancer news and information @doyouknowcancer!

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