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$20,000 Raised for Man Seeking Marrow Donor

Times Staff Writer

A community picnic Sunday raised more than $20,000 toward finding a bone-marrow donor who can help save the life of Rick Bellinson, a 34-year-old Sherman Oaks man suffering from a fast-moving form of lymph cancer.

The odds are one in 20,000 that a suitable donor will be found, said the man’s brother, Ben Bellinson.

The money raised through a raffle at the picnic will be added to the nearly $200,000 that has been donated since shortly after Rick Bellinson’s condition worsened last fall, his brother said. More than 250 people attended the event.

Up until then, the cancer was a small-cell form that often goes into remission, Ben Bellinson said. But tests revealed that the disease had spread to larger lymph cells, and doctors said a bone-marrow transplant was the best way to combat the cancer, he said.

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Tests Scheduled

Rick Bellinson this week will undergo tests in preparation for an alternative procedure involving chemotherapy and a debilitating radiation treatment that does not distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells, his brother said. If a suitable bone-marrow donor is not located before early May, the treatment will begin.

About 50% of patients undergoing the alternative treatment experience remission of the disease, Ben Bellinson said. But 70% of cancers treated with bone-marrow transplants go into remission, he said.

Rick Bellinson said his doctor told him that during the alternative procedure, the patient’s peripheral stem cells are extracted and frozen. After the patient undergoes full-body radiation, the cells are re-injected into the body, producing healthy bone marrow cells. Rick Bellinson said he would be kept in isolation for about a month to guard against infections.

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At Sunday’s picnic at the Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks Park in Sherman Oaks, thoughts of the upcoming treatment gave way to appreciation for the friends and relatives who have helped raise money for testing potential donors, Rick Bellinson said.

Support Praised

“The tremendous support system I have from my family and friends, and having this type of function like today really helps,” he said.

The raffle prize was a six-course dinner for 12 prepared by three chefs who are friends of the Bellinson family, Ben Bellinson said.

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Ben Bellinson said more than 2,500 people contacted by the family have undergone bone-marrow tests, which cost about $75 each. He said most of those who took the tests were “friends of friends of friends” who are concerned about his brother.

“Several thousand people have donated money, and we’ve sent out several thousand personal appeals,” he said.

A basketball game between the Los Angeles Raiders and friends of Rick Bellinson raised $8,000, Ben Bellinson said, and additional money was raised April 2 at a chamber music concert.


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