Actress-singer Jennifer Lopez is using her starpower to rally support for a fellow Latina who is suffering from blood cancer. Lopez, 36, is urging Hispanics in New York City to donate blood marrow to help Janet Ovalles, a 29-year-old of Dominican descent who needs a transplant from a matching donor to survive.
"I am a young Hispanic woman, so is Janet. I could empathize with her situation so much," Lopez said in a statement released Friday by DKMS, the bone marrow donor center that is organizing donor drives for Ovalles.
"These things just make you realize that we're all interconnected and depend on one another," said Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent.
Doctors say that a bone marrow transplant is Ovalles' only chance for recovery and the most suitable matches are from people of the same ethnic background.
But with Hispanics sharply underrepresented in the pool of registered donors, the prognosis is bleak. For Ovalles, there was no match in her family or among the 10 million registered donors worldwide.
"I am a walking time bomb," Ovalles said in a recent interview. "If I don't find a donor, I will die."
With Lopez calling attention to her cause, Ovalles hopes to find a matching donor at bone marrow drives Feb. 24-25.
"It's been very hard to recruit Hispanic bone marrow donors, but with Jennifer's help we really feel we can get the Hispanic community on board," said Katharina Harf, head of DKMS.