My name is Dan, and I’m writing this on behalf of my brother Don, who is currently recovering from his second (and hopefully last) bone marrow transplant. This is all thanks to an anonymous Vietnamese donor, who is one of only 0.2% Vietnamese represented in the registered donor population in the U.S. So thank you, whoever you are.
Don was 33 years old when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. It was a shock to our family, and we grieved for a time, but picked ourselves back up and focused on the next step: help Don through chemo and search for a bone marrow donor, as that was his best chance to beating the cancer.
Chemotherapy treatment started immediately, and so began the long, unknown, scary process to recovery. After learning about bone marrow transplant process and the very low chances of matching donors due to ethnicity, my cousins and I reached out to the Vietnamese local community to encourage registration. There was no way we could not do anything, knowing that a potential donor could be out there.
My 72 year old mother was found to be a bone marrow match. My mother is outside the recommended age range for donation, but she is a tough one and the doctors confirmed she was healthy enough to donate. Don’s first bone marrow transplant happened on February 2017, and so we waited for results while Don went through a tough recovery period.
Unfortunately, the bone marrow failed to produce healthy white blood cells and left his system. Biopsies did not find any of the cancer, so maybe Don was one of the lucky few who were cured by chemotherapy only. Months passed and Don was close to approaching one year without any sign of the cancer, but near the end of one-year mark, Don relapsed in June 2018. He started the chemo process over again, with an even higher dosage of chemo.
After some unexpected delays, my brother finally received his second bone marrow transplant on October 2, 2018. The road to recovery remains difficult, but we’re hoping this painful experience will become a distant memory that we can laugh at when we’re older.
I do not know where we would be if the donor wasn’t here. I think we would be living each day without hope, and that is a scary thing to have within you. I hope one day I can pay it forward and give a stranger my bone marrow and the hope to live another day, like what this donor did for my brother.