A Heroic Father-Daughter Team
In January 2011, 23 year-old Dana Point native, Lyndsey Harhay was diagnosed with cancer. Her specific diagnosis was Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), which is a swift cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and a secondary form called Leukemia Cutis, which is a cancer of the skin. Post-diagnosis, Lyndsey spent 11 months of the next year in and out of the hospital.
She initially went through a few rounds of chemotherapy, but the only way for her to beat the cancer was to get a bone marrow transplant. Her father, Tom Harhay who’s now a retired San Clemente firefighter, rallied the community to support his daughter.
The firefighting community did multiple fundraisers and blood drives publicized by the firehouse. In May 2011, they put on a fundraiser in collaboration with Be The Match in south San Clemente. Be The Match manages a marrow registry and aims to save lives by matching donors to cancer patients in need of transplant. Over 1,000 people showed up to support Lyndsey that day, and over 500 people joined the bone marrow registry, which was one of the largest drives at the time, with the exception of Los Angeles County.
Even with all these efforts, she was unable to find a match. The doctors reached a point of saying there was nothing more they could do, and she recalls a time during that year when things seemed pretty bleak.
“The doctor said I wasn’t going to make it, and I was tired,” she says.
What’s more, shortly after her own diagnosis, Lyndsey’s mother, Tari Harhay was diagnosed with stage 3b Colon Cancer and spent nearly two months at Mission Hospital as an inpatient, while Lyndsey was an inpatient at UCLA. Again, the community came together to support the Harhay family.
“The amount of love and support our family felt as a whole (during that time) was truly amazing,” says Lyndsey.
Her mother was regularly surrounded by people from the family, and had the support of the community while she was in the hospital. Because of this, and because Lyndsey’s cancer was more life threatening, Tom joined her at the UCLA hospital, where she resided.
“He’s a remarkable human,” Lyndsey says of her father.
Eventually, Lyndsey got better. A match was never found, and she lived in fear of the cancer returning over the next five years. If she had been able to get a transplant through Be The Match, she would have been completely cured. She still considers herself incredibly lucky but she also attributes her success at getting well to all the community support she received. She thanks her father and others who came together to be a loving presence to her and her mother.
She also believes things happen for a reason.
Lyndsey has taken her own difficult experience and turned it into acts of service and love toward others. She volunteers her time with Be The Match to help raise awareness and fundraise for local people in need. She has joined over 2,000 people in the marrow registry, and approximately ten of her friends have donated stem cells.
She proudly recounts a story from one of her friends who received a letter after she had donated. The recipient said the donor was the only one out of a mere seven matches that was willing to donate. She expressed gratitude that she could continue to be a mom to her three children.
Lyndsey has been clear of cancer for six years now. Aside from her volunteer efforts, she helps run her father’s company called Candlelight Systems, which he started more than 30 years ago. Candlelight is a local company in Talega that specializes in window treatments and services. She is thrilled to be partnering with him.
“My dad is a brilliant business man (and) an extremely hard worker with great morals,” she says. “Not only is he exemplary in his professional life, but he is an amazing family man that is extremely generous and dedicates his life to supporting his family.”
As she recalls the depth of that dedication while she was in the hospital, Lyndsey sees her father as a hero. There’s room for more than one hero in this story, however.
For more information, or if you are interested in joining the National Marrow Registry to help save a life, go to https://Join.BeTheMatch.org/GoodVibes