Special wedding guest: Marrow donor who saved groom's life

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On a beautiful September day, bride and groom Sloan Braith and Adam Myers of North Branch, Minnesota, got married. And they invited a man they had never met before, but who was responsible for getting them to this day.

The special guest was Jeremy Gitzlaff, the man who donated the bone marrow last year that successfully treated Myers' leukemia, KSTP reports.

Gitzlaff, 30, is an Iraq War veteran and lives in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, outside of Milwaukee. He and Myers have been communicating via texts, email and Facebook over the summer, but the wedding at scenic William O’Brien State Park was the first time they met face to face.

Myers, 31, had two bouts of cancer in the past few years. He had skin cancer in 2010, and doctors said the radiation therapy used to treat it was the likely cause of his second round of cancer, acute myeloid leukemia,which was diagnosed in late 2012. A bone marrow transplant was deemed his best chance of survival, according to the Star Tribune.

It was a few years ago that Gitzlaff signed up with a program called Be The Match, to become a bone marrow donor. He said he was used to donating blood during his years in the Marine Corps Reserve, so didn't have any qualms about donating marrow.

Only a few months had passed before the registry matched Gitzlaff with Myers. The transplant took place on May 3, 2013.

Myers said the first year afterward was “pretty rough” because he frequently got sick, but his health is much better now, according to the Associated Press.

“I have no signs of cancer at all,” Myers said. “I’m feeling better every day.”

The two men met for the first time shortly before the wedding ceremony began.

Gitzlaff downplayed his marrow donation, saying it cost him only a few hours of his time. But he was surrounded by guests at the wedding who expressed their gratitude, the Star Tribune reports.

BloodCenter of Wisconsin, which participates in the Be The Match program, says more than 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases that call for bone marrow transplants, and only 30 percent can find matching relatives.

The other 70 percent need to search the Be The Match registry, which has about 60,000 potential donors on file. Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds and young donors are especially needed. Registering takes less than 30 minutes.

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