MANATEE -- Nancy Newby, a McNeal Elementary School teacher who friends describe as positive and full of energy and enthusiasm, fell ill shortly after the school year started. She couldn't shake a feeling of fatigue, and went to her doctor.
Back in the classroom afterward, she received an urgent call that she needed a blood transfusion.
Doctors diagnosed her with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells.
Her family, friends and members of McNeal Elementary School and Witt Elementary School, the two schools where she has taught, have rallied around her.
"Doctors knew immediately that Nancy would need a bone marrow transplant to survive. Like most patients who need transplants, no one in Nancy's family was a match," wrote Ileana Quinones in an email.
Quinones is an education and recruitment specialist for Icla da Silva Foundation, the largest recruitment center for the Be The Match Registry in the United States.
In an effort to help his wife, Jim Newby found Icla da Silva in an online search, and contacted Quinones, who was quick to respond to their plight.
"You can't procrastinate," Quinones said.
In just a matter of days, Quinones has scheduled a bone marrow drive for 4-6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Jude Catholic Church, 3930 17th St., Sarasota.
"My fondest wish is to have a cure and get back into the classroom. I see parents all the time and they want me back, too. I am just so grateful for everyone who said they would come out to the bone marrow drive," said Nancy Newby, the mother of two young children.
"I miss it so much," Newby said of teaching. "This is the best job I've ever had. I have two wonderful school families. I'm so lucky with my two schools."
Faculty and staff at McNeal Elementary have been supportive, sending gift cards, food baskets and more to the family.
"It pulled us all together," Principal Norma Scott said. "It's been such an ordeal for the family. Over the years, Nancy has given a lot to the community and has bent over backward to do so much for others."
Newby is feeling better now after receiving chemotherapy, but she knows she badly needs a bone marrow transplant.
"One of her sisters was almost a match on all the markers," McNeal assistant principal Katherine Price said.
Newby and her family want a cure, and ask for prayers and for possible donors to attend the bone marrow drive this weekend.
The ideal donor should be between the ages of 18 and 44 and be in generally good health. At the bone marrow drive, a sample will be taken via a cheek swab to test for compatibility.
Sample results will be entered in the registry.
Anyone wanting to help may also make a direct financial donation, arrange to do a drive, or volunteer to help otherwise by visiting bethematch.org.
For more information, contact Ileana Quinones at 904-705-1593.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, may be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1