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a woman holds an envelope and smiles. The envelope has a blood donation icon on it

Letdowns, Letters, and Blood Donations

It’s 2019, and receiving mail isn’t nearly the event it was when most of us were kids. Remember waiting anxiously on a letter from a friend? How vividly do you recall being over the moon when a package arrived with your name on it? Granted, the heartfelt joy of receiving mail changed a good bit as we grew, but did we ever lose that amazing feeling we get when we actually open the mailbox to find something unexpected that isn’t just a bill? Last week, I had that fantastic, practically kick-up-your-heels feeling brought back courtesy of my melanoma.

Melanoma surprises

When I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2007, I was clueless on many fronts. Having heard the word melanoma and knowing of only two people who had it, I was unable to process the changes that would take place in my own life. The pain following the excision of my spot surprised me. The inordinate amount of time it took for my excision site to heal was an ongoing amazement. In addition, I wasn’t in any way prepared for the changes in my sun-worshipping habits. One surprise, however, didn’t rear its ugly head until much later.

Donating blood–another surprise

The Lifeline Blood Services mobile unit appears in my small town fairly regularly. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to donate blood since my last donation had been during high school. I assumed I would be ready to roll after registering and answering the required questions about my health history. Unfortunately, one question halted all progress. That question-“Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?” At that point, the questions on the computer stopped, and I was asked to see a technician. A couple of short questions later, I found myself leaving the bloodmobile after being told that my history of melanoma disqualified me from ever donating blood. I was devastated.

Policy changes

It’s been several years since that disappointment of a day. This week, a surprise every bit as exciting as those of my childhood arrived in the mail. A letter from Lifeline Blood Services caught my eye in the stack of junk mail and the few paper bills that still arrive in my mailbox. Lifeline, after many years, has revised its policies to allow cancer survivors to donate. (Some limitations still apply.) I am far past the five-year time limit they now allow for most types of cancer. There is a bit of paperwork to do in order to donate when the bloodmobile arrives in my town next time, but it looks like I am on my way to donating once more.

A letter stating that April can now donate blood again

The back side of the letter explaining that April can now donate blood again

Donations of this type might not be on some folks’ priority lists, but I am thrilled to be able to do my part in donating blood once more. It’s difficult to be let down when you plan to do something and are told you can’t, but when you make plans to be helpful and are told you aren’t allowed, well, that can be heartbreaking on many levels. Thank you, Lifeline. You have made many a melanoma survivor very happy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ronni Gordon moderator
    3 months ago

    That’s great! It’s not a small thing at all. Blood cancer patients like myself depend on the generosity of donors like you. The treatment causes blood counts to drop and we need “replenishment.” I’m more than 10 years out but I don’t think they would want my blood but I could be wrong. Maybe I will check.

  • April Pulliam moderator author
    3 months ago

    @ronnigordon…it would definitely be worth your time to check. When I was denied point-blank a few years ago and told I’d never be eligible to donate, I took them at their word and gave up. This was a wonderful surprise, and I’m sure it has made a lot of people very happy. I say go for it! It doesn’t hurt to ask! April,, Moderator

  • mare
    3 months ago

    I’m going through some sadness about not being able to donate blood. I had melanoma in 2012 and was able to start donating every two months probably at least three years ago. Now with a new diagnosis of sebaceous carcinoma I’m assuming it will be a few years before/if I can donation again. It’s such a small thing to do that brings so much good to other people!

  • April Pulliam moderator author
    3 months ago

    @mare…I completely understand your frustration about not being able to donate. I was shocked when I was told I’d never be able to give blood again. While I understood their reasoning, I didn’t find it any easier to accept it.

    You’re so right about it being a small thing with big meaning. When you feel that you can’t give anything else in a time of need, you can always make a donation at a blood bank. There just won’t be a time that we don’t need a store of all blood types.

    I hope you are currently doing well with treatment/recovery. Know that we are always here for you when you need an ear! Sending you hugs! April,, Moderator

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