Stem cell match found for Maine game warden

Deputy Chief Game Warden Gregory Sanborn sits in his Augusta office and talks about the generous out pouring of support after he went public about his battle with cancer. (Bangor Daily News Photo by Kevin Bennett) (Bangor Daily News Photo by Kevin Bennett)

Maine Game Warden Maj. Gregory Sanborn has spent the past couple of months going to work, heading to numerous appointments with doctors, and waiting for the call that could save his life.

Today I’m happy to tell you some great news: Sanborn, who is battling cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer, has received that call.

After stem cell donor drives across the state on his behalf, and worldwide on the behalf of others, a match for Sanborn has been found.

On Saturday I saw Sanborn at the Rangeley Lakes Region Moose Lottery Festival, where he served as a judge for the moose-calling contest. We chatted a bit, and I asked him the question that’s on everybody’s mind: “Any word?”

Sanborn broke into a huge grin. “Actually, there is,” he told me, before sharing the details, then telling me that he planned to let his fellow game wardens know before he broke the news in a more public forum.

On Tuesday, the Facebook page “Friends of Greg Sanborn” posted the text of a letter that Sanborn sent them. Here’s some of what Sanborn had to say in that message:

“I was notified by Dana Farber [Cancer Institute in Boston] that a match has been found,” Sanborn wrote. “Under the rules of “Be the Match,” the only information that can be released to me for one year is that the donor is a male, 26 years of age. At this time I do not even know what state or country he is from. Staff at Dana Farber tell me that this profile is a very good match for me and increases the chances of a successful stem cell transplant.”

Sanborn said he and his doctors have a plan of action that will be initiated next month.

“As it stands right now, I will be admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital on July 9 to start the stem cell transplant process,” he wrote. “As I understand it, the first eight days I will be receiving high doses of chemotherapy and radiation and will only be semi-conscious. The goal of that is to kill all cancer cells.

“On day 8, I will be receiving the donated stem cells that will rebuild my immune system that the first eight days of treatment has completely destroyed,” Sanborn wrote. “The donated stem cells are my life line. I will need to be in isolation to protect myself from infections until my new immune system is strong enough, usually about a year.

“It will be a long year before I can resume ‘normal’ activity and go back to work. I will miss seeing everyone at the [Fryeburg] fair this year, but I’ll catch up with everyone next year. My doctors say if this works, I’ll be trading one year for 30 more good ones. I’ll hang onto that in the days ahead,” Sanborn wrote.

UPDATE: Click here for a more recent story with comments from Sanborn.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.