Suzon Robbins of Bettendorf is good friends with Rock Island’s Becky Wren, and is doing all she can to help Wren, who is fighting for her life.

The commercial fisherwoman — who has removed invasive carp from Illinois rivers — is in her 30s and has Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a form of cancer that starts in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of certain bones, where new blood cells are made), but most often it quickly moves into the blood, as well.

Benefits for Rock Island’s Becky Wren will be held Saturday, Jan. 28 at Village Theatre and Feb. 14 at Skylark QC.

Wren has been receiving chemotherapy and urgently needs a bone marrow transplant. Two upcoming events are scheduled to help raise money for her medical expenses and awareness and testing to see if people are matches for those needing such transplants.

  • This Saturday, Jan. 28, a benefit for Wren will be at Village Theatre, 2113 E. 11th St., Village of East Davenport. It includes a bake sale, silent auction, 50/50 raffle and live music from Heads in Motion (Talking Heads tribute band). Admission is $10, with doors opening at 5 p.m. and music at 7 p.m.
  • On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, a “Be the Match That Matters” event at Skylark QC, 4401 7th Ave., Rock Island, will ask people to show love to Wren by registering for Be the Match — a global leader in bone marrow transplantation.

At both events, Robbins will take cheek swabs to test people and see if they could be a marrow match for people waiting for a transplant.

Be the Match has helped coordinate 110,000 transplants since 1987, Robbins (Skylark’s event coordinator) said Tuesday.

Find out more at BeTheMatch.org.

bone marrow transplant takes a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells and puts them into the patient’s bloodstream, where they begin to grow and make healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Patients receive high doses of chemotherapy to prepare their body for the transplant. Then on transplant day, the patient receives the donated cells in a process that is like getting blood or medicine through an intravenous tube.

“Eighty-five percent are now done through a stem-cell blood donation,” Robbins said of marrow donors, noting she’s encouraging people ages 18 to 40 to get tested. She’s personally been on the Be the Match registry since 2005, but hasn’t been matched and asked to donate.

After joining the Be The Match Registry, you will be contacted if you are identified as a possible bone marrow match for a patient, according to the organization website. When you’re contacted as a possible match, you have been identified as having similar HLA typing to a patient with leukemia, lymphoma or one of more than 75 life-threatening diseases.

“Becky’s brother is a match and they are going to try that first. It would be great to have a back-up,” Robbins said. “Obviously, being a widow from cancer, I want to help people save the ones they love. No one should have to go through that kind of grief. Ten minutes could help save a life.”

She lost her late husband, Kevin, to a brain tumor (at age 29) in December 1999.

Suzon Robbins, event coordinator of Skylark QC in Rock Island, with owner Justin Farley (photo by Jonathan Turner).

She has known Wren since she was 18. “She is such a beautiful soul,” Robbins said Tuesday. “She likes we are putting a positive spin on a negative situation. She’s very humble.”

“We want to help anybody that needs it. 30 percent of people who need it match with a family member. So that means 70 percent don’t,” she said. “The coolest thing is, Be the Match will pay for you to have time off of work, will fly you out, put you up. They take care of people.”

Modern Woodmen of America will match up to $2,500 of the proceeds raised at the Saturday Village Theatre.

Over $25,000 raised so far

The GoFundMe page that was established for Wren’s expenses has raised $25,106 as of Tuesday, Jan. 24.

A photo of Becky Wren with a furry friend on the GoFundMe page.

Tia Parker, who organized the online campaign, wrote that Wren is “not your average gal.”

“She’s a lady that will challenge any ‘man’s’ job with an unmatched work ethic,” the website says.

A Jan. 6 update said that Becky’s oldest brother Josh was a perfect, 100% match for her marrow transplant. “A 100% match is rare, so finding this is a major feat!” the site says. “In February Becky and Josh will travel to Chicago for the transplant. We know that the recovery on Becky’s end will be quite lengthy and involved with high stakes and lots of requirements.

“She will be in the recovery phase for a minimum of 100 days post transplant. During these 100 days she will be totally stripped of her immunity making her even more susceptible to infections,” the GoFundMe page says. “She will need to be in complete isolation with a caregiver that is committed to being in complete isolation with her.”

Becky and the caregiver will need to be housed near (within 45 minutes) her treatment facility (this option will be either a hotel or an Airbnb). While grants have been awarded through different organizations and very generous donations have been gifted, “Becky will be faced with a large bill for her extended stay in the Chicago area,” the site says.

“She and the care giver will not be allowed to go outside the recovery residence except to receive the twice weekly treatment post transplant.”

After transplant, Wren’s body will start rebuilding an immune system from scratch with the new, transplanted stem cells. During this process (which can take months), she will be highly susceptible to infection.

One of the major concerns and the biggest reason she must stay close to the hospital is Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), her site says. It is the most serious side effect of allogeneic (cells donated) bone marrow transplant. Antibodies from the transplant donor cells can attack Becky’s own cells. However, the closer the donor cells are to a match, the lower the risk for GVHD.

To donate, visit the GoFundMe page HERE.