Sara Weaver was a rising star in the world of indie rock music when she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in September of 2000. Sara had been singing and playing guitar since her teenage years at Council Rock High School in Bucks County. She was, according to music producer Brian McTear, "just on the verge of being taken very, very seriously." Weaver was founder, songwriter, guitarist, and lead singer of the Philadelphia-based band Swisher, which had released two CDs and attracted a loyal local following.
Philadelphia's City Paper captured just a portion of the larger-than-life persona that Sara was known for: "On stage Sara could not be ignored. Decked out in a black choker and a leopard print dress, her short blonde hair flying in front of her eyes, she played her pink guitar with confidence and electricity. And she had a voice like an angry angelall fiery and cracking with passion but also melodic and entrancing." Swisher's second CD, Over Nothing, was winning acclaim and the band was planning its second national tour when Sara got word of the rapidly accelerating blood disease that interrupted her ascent.
Sara's public, her friends, and her loved ones echoed the City Paper's vote of confidence: "If anyone could kick leukemia's ass, it would be Weaver." Sara was no stranger to the fight or to health care concerns. In her pre-leukemia life, she directed quite a bit of her immeasurable energy toward fighting for the rights of people with AIDS, for safe and legal abortions, and for equal access to healthcare for the poor. Friends say she had a "warrior spirit."
Loving concern and a fighting spirit defined Sara from her teenage years through the end of her life. Sara co-founded an anti-militarism youth group when she was only in high school, and took part in many public actions on behalf of the homeless and other oppressed people when she was in college. Sara became well known and respected among Philadelphia activists, especially for her advocacy for lesbian and gay civil rights. She served as volunteer coordinator for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, capitalizing on her legendary charm and knack for getting people to do what she wanted. Center legal director, Tiffany Palmer, says, "Sara was definitely one of the funniest people I've ever met. She was beautiful, inside and out." The group intends to name its volunteer award after Sara.
This same spirit accompanied her to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's bone marrow transplant unit, where Sara spent much of the last two years of her life. She came through chemotherapy, had a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant from her sister Sonya, and successfully completed the transplant. She then began her battle with graft vs. host disease, a condition in which her new immune system attacks her own body. Sara and her incredible network of loved ones fought hard in the months that followed, but she eventually succumbed on June 7th, 2002. Both the agony of her difficult and dignified struggle and Sara's extraordinary wit are documented on her on-line chronicle, The Weave Report. This lifeline between Sara and those who loved her when she was alive continues to be an empowering resource for leukemia patients now that she is gone.
When Sara died, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that "Philadelphia lost more than just a member of the music scene. The city also lost an advocate for such causes as AIDS and civil rights." So it is no surprise that this well-loved and loving advocate left behind a concern that others in need of bone marrow transplants have the highest chance of survival possible. Sara knew that many factors influence the likelihood of a patient-donor match, including race and ethnicity. But because fewer racial and ethnic minorities are registered in the national donor registry, Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans in need of transplants have even less of a chance for survival. When Sara discovered this during her hospital stay, she began to look for ways she could help to close that gap.
To learn more about AML
To learn more about Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplants and Graft Vs. Host Disease: