Broadway Star, Shannon Tavarez, Loses Battle with Cancer
The story hit NY headlines early this summer that a young actress from Queens had been battling cancer. Today, I’m upset to report that she has lost that battle. 11-year-old Shannon Tavarez was a star on Broadway in the Lion King. With a soprano voice and great stage presence, she beat out thousands of girls to play young Nala. Midway through her run on Broadway, she was diagnosed with AML, Acute Myeloid Leukemia…
In July, there was a bone marrow drive held at the Minskoff Theater in the Broadway district that I attended. It was the second of two blood drives held in NY for Shannon to find a match.
Celebrities like 50 Cent, Alicia Keys and Rihanna even spoke out in support of Shannon by telling people, especially blacks and latinos, to go out and become a donor.
Shannon was half black and half latino, making her search for a donor not any easier. According to ABC NEWS, out of the 7 million American listed as donors, the National Bone Marrow Program reports that only 7 percent are African-American and 3 percent are Hispanic. So it was that much more important that people of color came out in strong numbers to the bone marrow drives to help Shannon.
Unfortunately, she never found match, so in August, her doctors opted for an alternative method and she received umbilical-cord blood from an anonymous donor, according to Broadwayworld.com.
Most recently, she’s been in the ICU here in a NY hospital where she’s been fighting her battle.
Shannon attended the Harlem School of the Arts where she studied vocal and piano, and she debuted on Broadway in September 2009. She stopped attending school in April 2010 when symptoms of AML brought her career to a halt.
To break it down, AML is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells and it is characterized by rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow.
Shannon’s story is what led me to become a Registered bone marrow donor. I even had the opportunity to speak to Shannon’s mother over the summer who said Shannon still had the hope and cheer of any young child despite what she was going through. That was the inspirational push.
Once you become a donor, it is scary to think about the actual phone call saying that you’re a match, because the process of extracting bone marrow has been known as a painful one. However, knowing that you may save the life of some you’ve never even met, a child perhaps, provides such a sense of humility and self-worth that I think it may subdue the idea of the pain.
To become a registered Bone Marrow donor, it just takes a quick swab. Go to the DKMS website for more info on how you can save a life.
Rest in peace to Shannon Tavarez and all of our prayers go out to her family and friends.