The “Lion King” pride has one less member as Shannon Tavarez lost her fight for life to acute myeloid leukemia, and has died at the age of 11-years-old.
In September, 2009, Shannon was added to the Broadway cast of “Lion King” portraying young Nala, the love interest of young Simba. Shannon infused the Nala character with her own sparkling personality until April, 2010, when she began experiencing lower back and leg pain, and nagging cold symptoms. After a battery of medical tests, Shannon was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The twofold effect of the ALM diagnosis was that Shannon’s acting career was put on hold as attempts were made to stop the disease that was attacking her body.
The most successful remission treatment for ALM is a bone marrow transplant, and big name celebrities like Beyonce’, Rihanna, Wendy Williams, and Alicia Keys, joined Shannon’s fellow “Lion King” cast mates appeal in urging the public to undergo testing for a bone marrow match. The search for a bone marrow match for Shannon was made more difficult by her mixed parentage, an African American mother and Hispanic father.
Shannon underwent chemotherapy treatment while waiting for a bone marrow donor, and lost her hair but never her courage and fierce determination that her story would have a happy ending. When a matching bone marrow donor was not located, Shannon underwent an umbilical cord blood transplant in August.
Shannon died Monday at Cohen Children’s Medical Center on Long Island. In honor of the young actress the lights on Broadway were dimmed Tuesday night
The worth of a life is not measured by its longevity, but by the impact of that life on the life of others. Shannon’s life has already begun to bear fruit attracting attention to the need for more minority bone marrow donors.