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Knoxville woman's search for a donor draws national attention

Dani Lorson, 32, is battling leukemia for a third time and is now searching for a bone marrow donor.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — A young Knoxville woman is on her third recurrence of leukemia and she is now searching for a bone marrow match. 

Her case drew so much interest that the national registry, Be the Match, took notice. 

Dani Lorson was living her dream of dancing in a hit show, Sesame Street Live.

"I felt good, I was a little short of breath," said Lorson. 

She was also a little tired so she went to get a physical during a stop in Detroit. 

"Maybe it's adult asthma, maybe I'm anemic, let's go see," said Lorson

The news hit hard. 

"She says, 'Dani I think you have leukemia.'  I was like, 'Excuse me, what? Look at me, I am so healthy. I am in the best shape of my life'," said Lorson. 

 Just like that her whole world changed forever. 

"In a matter of minutes I had to quit my dream job, I was diagnosed with cancer and I had to fly back home to Mobile, Alabama, move in with my mom and immediately start chemo treatment," said Lorson. 

After extensive treatment that lasted three years, Dani was in remission. She got engaged to Sean and was in a great place cancer-free. 

Credit: Dani Lorson
Dani completes chemo treatment

"I was so excited to put cancer behind me and start living this new normal and this second chance of life that I was given," Lorson said. "We got married. We really tried to make up for lost time. We traveled a lot."

Credit: Dani Lorson
Dani and Sean get married

Two years later, cancer returned. "I just couldn't believe this was happening again," said Lorson. 

Her doctor transferred her to Vanderbilt and this time she had to get a bone marrow transplant. 

"I was told that I would have at least 100 matches and I had zero," said Lorson. "There's some gene that I have that's a minority gene that's hard to match."

But after some time, a match popped up in the registry.  "He was my only chance. He didn't know that, but if he said no, I don't know what we would have done," said Lorson. "Thankfully this stranger said yes and he saved my life."

The transplant was hard but successful. "When you get a stem cell transplant, you get a new birthday so we celebrated my first birthday and I smashed my face into a cake," said Lorson.

But then another setback. "A year later I get the call that the leukemia was back for a third time," said Lorson. 

Now Dani needs another transplant. She knew it wouldn't be easy to find a match. 

"My friends and family did a call to action. We reached out to bloggers, influencers and tried to blast about Be the Match," said Lorson. 

So many people entered the registry with Dani's code, Be the Match took notice. Almost 1,000 people applied to be a match. 

"Dani is working to advocate for herself, but we could also through her efforts find a match for other patients as well," said Amanda Cooley with Be the Match.

And this process is so easy. You sign up on the website. Be the Match sends you a kit, you swipe your cheek and mail it off. 

"Hopefully one day no one has to go through what I am going through right now and hear the words 'we don't currently have a donor for you,'" said Lorson.  "I am so excited to get the word out about how easy it is to be a donor and to literally save someone's life."

There is a donor drive Thursday, October 7 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. in the cul-de-sac at the corner of Sheffield and Haverhill.  

For a donor testing kit, text DaniTN to 61474.