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Young Broadway star dies of cancer

In Health & Lifestyles on November 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm

By: Logan O’Boyle

Eleven-year-old Shannon Tavarez died last Monday after battling leukemia for six months. Photo courtesy of Google images.

On November 1, 2010, eleven-year-old Shannon Tavarez died after battling Leukemia for six months. Tavarez spent most of her life on the stage performing as young Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King. “It’s a great feeling, performing for people and being Young Nala, because she’s tough and I feel like that’s who I am through this whole experience,” Tavarez said during an interview with ABC news at the time of her diagnosis.

Tavarez began to notice that something was not right back in April, when she was performing on stage. She claimed that it became harder for her to walk, and she was always tired. At the end of her 5th grade year, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. This type of leukemia is a form of cancer that starts inside the bone marrow and grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells. Acute myeloid leukemia is uncommon for people under the age of 40. She received chemotherapy right away, but it was not helping.

One of the hardest problems with Tavarez’s case was finding a bone marrow match. Since she was of mixed heritage, it only made the search for a match even harder. In the registry of potential bone marrow donors, African- Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented. Only seven percent of registered donors are African- American and only three percent are Hispanic. After publishing news of her problem on the internet, Tavarez’s case inspired many stars such as Rihanna, Alica Keys and 50 Cent to be bone marrow donors in her name. She also inspired over 10,000 people to register to be her donors. Of the seven million Americans listed as possible donors, only twelve percent were minorities.

Since finding a bone marrow match for Tavarez was almost impossible, doctors decided to perform a cord-blood transplant in hopes that the surgery would cure her leukemia. The transplant was performed in August, however it unfortunately did not help. After the long six-month struggle, she passed away on November 3 at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, on Long Island. For this young star, the circle of life took a turn for the worst. However, she will always be remembered as a very tough fighter, just like the character she played for many years.

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