In 2008, Basehor resident Tom Clarke was recovering from a bone marrow transplant. Going through that experience made him determined to do something to help other people in that same situation. He was also determined to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which had provided support to him.
“I’m a two-time leukemia survivor and a bone marrow transplant recipient,” Clarke said. “I’m 100 percent committed to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because of the work they do and the research they fund. They were there for me throughout my battle and now I am giving back.”
The way Clarke is giving back is by creating jewelry for his website www.kickincancersbooty.com as well as selling the jewelry at craft fairs and festivals.
The jewelry idea came from a nurse who was treating Clarke after his bone marrow transplant. His nurse enjoyed crafting and thought he might enjoy doing it since he could do it from his hospital bed. She suggested a variety of crafting ideas, but beading was what caught Clarke’s attention.
“I had never attempted anything like it before so my first few bracelets left much to be desired. I really didn’t care because it was doing what I’d hope it would and made the days go by quickly,” he said.
Clarke’s cancer journey began in July 2007. After a normal day at work, he noticed that he seemed to be more tired than usual. Brushing off any medical reason and chalking the fatigue up to the extra hours he had been working, the exhaustion began to increase and weakness set in. Just climbing a flight of stairs caused him to be out of breath. The next day after a visit to urgent care, he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
After a follow-up visit to his doctor, Clarke received a call from his doctor who told him to pack a bag and immediately go to the hospital. After checking into his room, his life would forever be changed when he received the leukemia diagnosis.
The day after he entered the hospital, Clarke began a chemotherapy regimen. Being in the hospital for 30 days left him bored. That’s when he turned to beading.
A year later, the leukemia returned and he needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Nine months later, a match was found in Europe. On Oct. 1, 2008, Clarke received his transplant and more than 40 days later, he was allowed to return home.
“God blessed me with an incredible family. After several months of daily trips to the doctor’s office and recuperating at the home of my daughter and son-in-law, I was feeling pretty good. I had regained some strength, I was exercising daily and life was pretty good,” said Clarke.
Unfortunately, Clarke’s luck wasn’t holding out. In July 2009, he was told that he only had a week to live. He called his family and friends and began preparing to die. Against all odds, Clarke’s condition began to improve, much to the surprise of his team of doctors. He left the hospital weighing just 105 pounds and on oxygen, but his strength was returning and Clarke was able to walk with the assistance of a cane.
Now that he is healthy again, Clarke continues making cancer-specific, beaded bracelets and recently added additional diseases, syndromes and causes as well as collegiate and sports items. He donates 25 percent of the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Handcrafting each piece, Clarke’s goal is to give even more money to the society through those sales, including his Etsy shop. TNK Children’s Foundation, which supports families of children with cancer and other blood diseases, also receives proceeds from the sale of each of Clarke’s pieces of jewelry.
“I’ll do anything to help raise funds to support cancer. God gave me a second and third chance at life and there’s no way I’m going to screw it up,” said Clarke.
Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org