The need for blood in cancer treatment patients is an important, and sometimes, untold story.

Sue Thesenga with the American Red Cross said patients fighting cancer need more blood than patients fighting any other disease, using nearly one-quarter of the nation’s blood supply. Donating blood or platelets is a way to help ensure those fighting for their lives have the strength and support to battle cancer, she said.

Kaleb Klimek, the 5-year-old son of Dave and Cassandra Klimek of Miltona, is one such cancer patient. He’s had several transfusions since his diagnosis this past January.

His parents said people ask them how they can help during this time and the number one thing people can do is contact the Red Cross and donate.

“It really makes a person think how important donating truly is. Think about yourself, your spouse, your child, a relative, a close friend, what would you do if they needed blood to save their life?” said Cassandra. “There is such a huge need for platelets right now because there is a shortage. If it wasn’t for people donating, our son would not be here today.”

The Klimeks said if people are willing, healthy and capable of donating, they encourage everyone to do as it is one of the best gifts one can give and receive.

“As a parent witnessing your child receive it, it is pretty awesome,” said Cassandra.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in three people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. An estimated 33,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Minnesota this year. Many of these people will likely have a need for blood.

Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing red blood cell and platelet production. Other times, the cancer itself or surgical procedures cause the problem. Blood products are often needed, said Thesenga.

In fact, she said that five units of blood are needed every minute to help someone going through cancer treatment, yet only 3% of people in the United States give blood. More people are needed to donate regularly to help meet the need.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people can still donate, said Thesenga.

In fact, the Red Cross continues to encourage people to schedule and keep donation appointments in the weeks ahead to ensure a stable supply throughout this pandemic.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions have been implemented to ensure the health of Red Cross donors, employees and volunteers.

Donors are now required to wear face coverings at a blood drive or donation center. Donors are encouraged to bring their own face coverings. If a donor does not have a covering or mask, the Red Cross will provide one. If a donor does not want to wear a covering or mask, they are being asked to postpone their donation.

Healthy individuals who are feeling well are asked to make an appointment to donate by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.