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A Tale of Gratitude

Life’s most significant moments often arrive unannounced, disguised as ordinary days. 

For Laura Pietig, it all began with a small rash in November 2016—a minor concern on the surface. However, the recent shingles diagnosis of a close friend prompted Laura to make a doctor’s appointment. Her husband, Jay, had never had chicken pox, so she wanted to get it checked out. That appointment became the catalyst for a remarkable tale of family, gratitude and a fresh perspective on life.

“I debated going to the doctor’s that day, but I went, and they did blood work. They called me back for more tests, but I had no history of cancer and I wasn’t super worried. I never felt sick. I still vividly remember the day they called and said we suspect you have leukemia, and we have a bed for you at KU Med Center today,” she says.

More tests confirmed a diagnosis of Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a blood cancer. Laura would need a bone marrow transplant. “They first checked Be The Match, a worldwide blood stem cell registry. Unfortunately, there were no matches. Without treatment the life expectancy was 3 years,” Laura explains.

Laura and Jay are parents to Jackson, Cole and Morgan. At the time, Jackson was a freshman at the University of Arkansas and the only offspring old enough to be tested as a potential donor. Fortunately, he was a 50% match and a viable candidate.

Sharing the same birthday, Jackson and Laura already had a unique bond. “I was more than happy to step up and help my mom,” Jackson says without hesitation. “It’s actually been an honor and I’m grateful to have been that person.”

Today they share a second birthday, something Laura’s health care team calls a re-birthday, the transplant date of March 17.

“I don’t think he likes to be made the hero, but he is,” says Laura. The transplant was a success, and Laura is a six-year survivor of leukemia.

As Laura reflects on her journey, she acknowledges the impact it has had on her perspective. Recently the Pietig home was hit by lightning, but Laura takes it all in stride. “It will be a little bit of a pain, but there are certainly worse things in life.”  

She and Jay also identify that their experiences have cultivated a special empathy within their children and have nurtured a profound appreciation for family time. Laura says, “Holidays and time together are just a bigger deal. If something good came out of it, I think we are all closer.”

The outpouring of support from neighbors, friends, coaches and family during Laura's treatment remains a lifeline that continues to shape their lives. It is a gratitude that Laura carries with her, a reminder of the strength of their community in the face of adversity.

While Laura was not matched with a donor through the Be The Match registry, she understands the critical importance of this organization in saving lives. Alongside her family, she urges others to join the registry through a straightforward online application and a simple cheek swab. As soon as they were 18 years old, both Cole and Morgan registered. Morgan, now a junior at Simpson College in Iowa, is the president of a cancer awareness club on campus. She is actively partnering with Be The Match to bring a registration drive to the school.

For more information on Be The Match or to begin the donor registration process, please go to