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Cancer survivor hosts blood drive to celebrate 'life achievement'

Sally Brendle Palazzolo was diagnosed in January 2021 with a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. On Saturday, she celebrated her survival by hosting a blood drive.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A St. Louis County family thought they'd celebrate a "life achievement" with a party, but the guest of honor—a cancer survivor—had another idea: Make it an event to give the gift of life and help fill a critical need.

"Somebody saved my life by donating blood, so I want to pay it forward," said Sally Brendle Palazzolo.

Palazzolo was diagnosed in January 2021 with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She said the diagnosis came as quite a shock to her and her family.

Palazzolo ultimately needed several blood transfusions—roughly 15 pints.

"The first thing she said to me was, 'I just want to give back,'" said Palazzolo's sister, Sara Henderson.

And Palazzolo, of south St. Louis County, relied on Henderson and her six other siblings in a big way.

"That's the blessing of a large family," she said.

A mobile blood drive was held Saturday morning in Palazzolo's honor, and her family collected monetary donations for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

But it's raised so much more than that.

"It's not just the car accident victim, but it's the leukemia victim. There's lots of different reasons people need it, and it's so easy to do. It took maybe a half hour to donate our blood and look at how many lives as a result," Henderson said.

Nearly 75 pints of blood were collected, potentially saving 225 lives.

"I just encourage people to take the half-hour out of (their) busy schedule because someday it may be you who needs it," Henderson said.

Palazzolo is grateful to everyone who donated.

"Words can't describe it. It's been overwhelming," Palazzolo said.

Visit bloodcenter.org for more information or to learn how you can host a blood drive.