Khaney Martin-Edmonds wasn’t concerned when her then 14-year-old son, Steven, bit into a sweet roll and broke a piece of his braces. But when the swelling didn’t go down after a few days of treating it, a trip to the emergency room revealed much more than a puncture wound.
Steven was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that causes fast-growing tumors. Her son, who to that point never even had a cold, needed chemotherapy, radiation and surgery over the course of a year to treat the tumor behind his eye.
Khaney credits a strong support system of family, friends and her faith with getting her and Steven through that rough time. Today, Steven is 23, cancer-free, and pursuing a teaching career.
The experience had a far-reaching effect on Khaney in another way – she became an advocate for blood donation. Prior to Steven’s cancer, she was scared of blood and needles, as was her son. But once Steven needed transfusions, she became a blood donor and hasn’t stopped. “I was scared but I was more scared to lose my son’s life,” says Khaney.
Khaney and Steven became faces of blood donation, appearing on fliers for Central Blood Bank back in the early 2000s. Khaney started to give testimonials at churches to encourage others to overcome their fears and become regular blood donors. She continues to be a blood donation ambassador and a blood donor today.
“When people say they’re scared of the needle part I always tell them to think of someone they know. Do what you need to do to save someone’s life. Now that Steven’s better I’m trying to draw people’s awareness that blood donations really help. Everybody does not die.
“We wouldn’t have shortages if someone just stands up and says ‘look what happens when you continue to give.’ I want people to know it’s not okay just to give when you know someone but to save all lives. I want people to be committed to give. You never know who’s going to have a child who needs it. All lives matter.”
Steven in 2005 (top) and today (bottom).