BRONSON, Iowa (KCAU) – Ten years before meeting the love of his life, Iowa man Ben Clark was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare blood cancer. He then partnered with DKMS, an international nonprofit dedicated to the fight against blood cancer, to find a stem cell donor who would become more than just a perfect match.
Jan Rolfes lives in Sweden, and is a stem cell donor. Rolfes says he understood the importance of being a donor at a young age.
“A family friend of ours who was also 8 years old, a little bit older than me … he got Leukemia. And then all the family friends tried, … registered, among them my mom. But unfortunately … he didn’t make it,” Rolfes said.
When Rolfes got the call that someone halfway across the world needed his stem cells, he didn’t hesitate.
“I signed up to the registry and two years later, Ben needed my stem cells.” Rolfes said.
“It had been August 2010 when I first got diagnosed with Lymphoma,” Clark said. “I had undergone treatment for it. I was in remission and it came back. And that’s when we decided, you know, it was time to maybe look at a transplant.”
Clark had been waiting for a match for years. He was also in the middle of planning his wedding, so when he got news of a donor match, he and his wife came up with the same idea.
“When I met Ben I knew that that was one of his dreams, was to meet his bone marrow donor. So I tried to find him on my own to invite him to the wedding and the reason I did that was because we knew it was a long shot,” his wife Jayme Clark said.
The plan was to bring Jan to Iowa for the wedding, but then, Ben decided that Jan would be his best man.
“Who else better to be your best man than the guy that saved your life, so I felt it was right,” Clark said.
“This is important to him and I want to, I want to make this happen, because this was like, I can understand this. Like, I was also like curious how his family would be, like, who is my recipient actually?” Rolfes said.
Now, Clark and Rolfes are bonded for life through a life-saving donation.
“I’m here because of him. And you know, yes it was our special day but initially he’s the reason I’m still here and get to be married to my best friend. We want people to get on the registry, you can’t have enough people,” Clark said.
During the Clarks’ wedding, they continued to celebrate the gift of life by registering all their guests to become donors. Those who would like to learn more about becoming a donor can get more information at the DKMS website.