ABILENE, Texas - If you've donated blood in Abilene, you've probably met Frances Baker, a blood donor recruiter for the Meek Blood Center. Baker celebrated her 13th year cancer-free Sunday.
Baker said when she received her diagnosis 13 years ago, she was not completely surprised.
"I had breast cancer when I was 47--and that's kind of young to have cancer really--but my mother had also had it at 47," Baker said. "It wasn't like I was expecting to get cancer, but I knew it was in my family history. That's why I was real diligent about getting my mammograms and that's actually how it was found through a mammogram."
Baker said her daughter was her support system while she underwent treatment.
"I know first hand what it's like to be told that your blood counts are down and you're not going to be able to receive your chemotherapy," Baker said.
Baker also knows what it is like to think you can no longer give blood.
"I was a blood donor before I had got my cancer diagnosis and at that time the rules were if you ever had cancer you couldn't donate again," Baker said. "That was actually one of the most devastating things about my diagnosis was to think I could never give blood again, but we've since changed our rules."
Breast cancer patients can start donating blood two years after they have completed treatments.
"I resumed donating about 5 years ago and I'm actually up to eight gallons," Baker said. "I give every eight weeks."
Baker encourages everyone to give blood as often as they can and not to wait until a natural disaster hits to donate.
"We use it every day and I think people would be surprised to see how much goes out on a daily basis," Baker said.
Baker said being cancer free and recruiting donors is the best of both worlds.
"I get to help a cancer patient every single day," Baker said. "You know I'm not the one that draws the blood, but I feel like my role is if I can get donors in, then every day I'm going to help a cancer patient. I know that's a wonderful feeling."
The Meek Blood Center provides blood to 17 area hospitals. Donors can give blood every eight weeks or six times a year. The process takes about 45 minutes.