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Maryland native cooking for a cure while battling Myelodysplastic syndrome

Maryland native cooking for a cure while battling Myelodysplastic syndrome
Maryland native cooking for a cure while battling Myelodysplastic syndrome
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 09:19:37-05

BALTIMORE — "Times are rough. Let’s make each other feel good in the simplest way possible... through food," said Elise Smith, a 30-year-old Maryland native and cook.

The kitchen is where Elise feels most like herself, especially right now. She's been battling Myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of blood cancer, for about two years and has bone marrow failure.

"I only have five percent. I think the last time we were together I had like 20, maybe even 30 percent. I only have 5 percent functioning bone marrow left. I’ve been on the registry for a year and a half and I have not found my match," said Elise. "We knew that it was a long game, but I had no idea how difficult it can be to find a match."

She's talking about Be the Match, a worldwide registry that helps patients fighting blood cancer. They use the registry to find a donor who could save their life through a transplant. Elise is doing treatment right now but once that stops working, she needs a full match for a stem cell transplant, even though her brother is a 50 percent match. She stressed, "even though he is my selected default donor, it is not optimal given the condition I have."

Elise has a lower chance of finding a match since she's Black. African Americans have a 23 percent chance of finding a match on the registry.

You can only save somebody from your genetic background," said Beth Carrion, an account manager for Be the Match in this region. "Unfortunately, it’s not like giving blood. We can donate blood to each other based on our blood group, but not this. This is something so serious we have to add more African Americans to the registry to help save more black lives."

That's why they're asking people to sign up for Be the Match. It takes a few minutes to sign up and once you're done a swab kit is sent to your home. Once you get the kit, you swab your cheeks, mail it back and there's a 1 in 430 chance you'll match someone.

"What if you were that person that could be a match for someone? It breaks my heart because a lot of people don't understand. 80 percent of the time it's like giving platelets or plasma," said Carrion. "It's just a blood product. If people understood... it's just blood. Your body will make more."

To sign up text "TeamElise" to 61474 or click here.

"I just want a chance to get to my 40s, 20s were a struggle. 30s can be smooth sailing after we get over the hump. That’s what I want," said Elise.

Elise showed WMAR-2 News' Erin MacPherson how to make a johnny cake waffle for Valentine's Day. The full recipe is below and we'd love for you to make it! Once you make it, take a picture and post it on social media but don't forget to tag WMAR-2 News, Be the Match and put #cookingforacure.

The recipe makes 6-10 waffles, enough for 4-6 people.


1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 c all-purpose flour

1 c ground cornmeal

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Pinch of cinnamon

2 eggs {1 whole egg + 1 egg white}

2 c whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. In a frying pan over LOW-MED heat, place the stick of butter and melt it down. Set aside and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder + soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk to combine and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg white. Beat until frothy—this should take about 1 minute.
  4. Next, after measuring the milk, add the vanilla into the “wet” measuring cup. Once combined, mix in the slightly cooled butter to the milk mixture. Whisk until incorporated and smooth.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredient bowl, drop in the whole egg. Mix a until combined.
  6. Next, pour in the milk mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the beaten egg white. Once the wet and dry ingredients are well incorporated, you’re ready. The texture should be cohesive with some remaining clumps visible.
  7. Lightly butter a waffle iron heated to 375° or the pre-selected (MED) temp setting. Scoop about 1/2 c-3/4 c of batter (depending on the size of your waffle iron). Cook until ready. The waffles should be firm with a bounce and golden-brown in appearance.
  8. Once achieved, top with desired toppings on the waffle(s) and serve hot. Top with a final drizzle of maple syrup and enjoy!