Magnolia’s Elise Smith Is Using Her Search for Life-Saving Bone Marrow to Urge People of Color to Donate

Elise Smith rollout

Elise Smith rollout

照片: Jennifer Chase/Magnolia Network

Elise Smithcan’t encourage people enoughto join the bone marrow donor registry, to help save her own life and potentially so many others.

Columbia, Md.-based baker and food influencer — who has been battling myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood cancer that causes bone marrow failure, 自从 2019 — has made this her mission especially since gaining her newfound fame on the 玉兰网.

It all started with a granola recipe. Smith had her recipes go viral before, but the vegan, gluten-free recipe was the first that caught the attention of a celebrity. 五月 2021, Joanna Gaines direct-messaged Smith on Instagram, inviting her to her kitchen studio in Waco, 德克萨斯州, so the two could bake together.

Elise Smith rollout

Elise Smith rollout

“She’s such a genuinely warm person,” says Smith of Gaines (in Waco in September 2021). “It was very easy to be in the kitchen with her.”.
Courtesy Elise Smith

It turns out that Gaines was looking for talent for her digital-learning series Magnolia Workshops. 史密斯, 32, quickly realized the invitation was aninformal interview— one she passed with flying colors. She went on to film six episodes of her show Baked From Scratch 二月里.

But filming was challenging for Smith. “I do not eat on a set because I’m likely to get ill,” 她说.

Her nausea is one of many side effects from the chemotherapy she gets to treat MDS. Though treatment has kept her stable, Smith’s best hope for a cure is a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant. But the donor registry doesn’t currently have a match for Smith.

White patients have a 79 percent chance of finding an existing match, while Black patients have just a 29 percent chance, 根据 Be the Match, the national registry of donors.

We need more Black, Brown and multiethnic individuals on the registry because we are our best chances at saving ourselves,” 史密斯说. “I can’t just go out and get it from anyone.

Smith’s diagnosis — the same cancer fought by 早安美国‘s Robin Roberts, who was cured by a transplant in 2012 — is a secondary cancer caused by radiation treatment she received to treat thyroid cancer when she was 19.

I did not think, ‘I’m going to get another cancer from the very thing that cured me.I really didn’t,” 她说. “But after treatment, you do have this looming sense of the other shoe to drop.

Elise Smith rollout

Elise Smith rollout

Smith gets treated every week at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Courtesy Elise Smith

Smith operated in what she callscured bliss” 几乎 10 years before her second diagnosis, a time when she was able to perfect her baking skills.

I always left the kitchen feeling like I could just take a deep breath,” 史密斯说, whose late grandmother Winifred taught her to cook and inspired her Instagram handle @winniesbakery.I would never say it substituted for real therapy, because I’m a very big believer in traditional therapy, but it held value.

Baked From Scratch (airing now and streaming on the Magnolia Network app) is a collection of her knowledge and best cake recipes, like her rosemary olive oil cake.

Elise is such a talented baker in her own right, but we were also struck by her endurance and tenacity with her cancer journey,” says Magnolia Network executive Andrew Rezin. “She is such a joy on and off screen.

Smith is determined to use her platform to recruit new donors via Be the Match.

Joining the registry is easy to do,” says Beth Carrion, the Be the Match account manager helping Smith find her donor.

Fill out a registration online, 和 Be the Match will mail you a cheek swab kit with return postage included. You need to be between the ages of 18 和 40, because younger donors have more stem cells.

If you’re the 1 在 220 who gets called as a match, there are two ways to donate: 85 percent of adults will give blood stem cells through an IV (a process that is usually painless, though time-consuming), and the other 15 percent will donate marrow from their pelvic bone under anesthesia.

There’s no cost. We reimburse missed time from work, we babysit, dog sit, you name it. We’ll take care of it,” says Carrion.

(Text TEAMELISE to 61474 或去 bethematch.org to start the process.)

It’s not easy for our communities to trust,” 史密斯说, acknowledging the past mistreatment of Black Americans by the medical field. “So having people of influence who look like us, tell them that this is okay—it’s just so important. I will do this until I can’t anymore, for real.

Even if that means using up what little energy she has left. With just 5 percent remaining bone marrow, Smith istired all the timeand struggles with brain fog.

I schedule my life around hospital visits,” 她说. “It’s like stolen moments of chasing down my dreams.

Elise Smith rollout

Elise Smith rollout

Meghan Elizabeth photography

If her treatment stops working while she waits for a match, Smith will resort to using a transplant from her brother David. But because he is only a 50 percent match for her, there is a higher chance of recurrence.

Smith has too many aspirations to let that happen—she plans to write a cookbook, continue starring on TV and start her own family.

I’d like to kick cancer’s ass, and I want to create work that I’m proud of,” 她说. “I am a very hopeful person. I have every belief that I will find my match and make it through.