Cancer patient drives 1,000 miles to thank marrow donor

HOULTON, Wis. – Michelle Hayes walks nervously up the sidewalk of the well-kept home.

For months she’d been planning for this moment. Still, what to say to the man on the other side of the front door – the stranger who saved her life?

“Yeah, I’m nervous,” Michelle had said in the car. “I’m just excited to meet him, you know, I don’t know how I’ll react.”

Two years earlier Michelle couldn’t have imagined this day. The kindergarten teacher from Baytown, Texas had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia.

“They didn’t think she was going to make it,” says Steve Hayes, a truck driver whose face still reveals his concern for his wife of 27 years. “First thing you think of, my wife’s gonna die.”

Michelle desperately needed a bone marrow transplant, but no one in her family provided the necessary match.

About that time a phone rang in the suburban Twin Cities home of Peter Favilla.

“I received a phone call from the Indiana blood center,” Peter says. “And I had no idea why they were calling me.”

Peter didn’t recall signing up in grad school to be a potential donor on the national bone marrow registry. “And I said, I did?”

Twenty years had passed since he’d pledged to help if the call ever came. “No recollection, not at all,” said Peter of the promise he’d made in school, but later forgot.

Now he was being told a 47-year-old cancer patient needed a bone marrow donor – and he was a perfect match.

“I just knew her age, and that was it – and that it was a female,” Peter says.

Actually, Peter knew one thing more: what he had to do – after sharing the story of the mystery woman with his teenage daughter Alex. “And she said, ‘It’s not like it’s a choice, of course you’re going to…