Saved by a Match
In the autumn of 2003 I noticed a shortness of breath after climbing a flight of stairs. Then came the night sweats and periodic blurry vision. My throat started to swell; my lymph nodes got tender and big.
I wound up spending that Thanksgiving in bed with the worst stomachache of my life. My wife called my mother, who said, “Akiim, if you’re not sure about your relationship with Jesus then you need to go to the hospital.”
All I could say was, “OK, I’ll go.”
A few days later I sat in the ER awaiting the bad news. What’s the worst it could be? Then a young female doctor told me there was a 95% chance I had leukemia.
I was in shock. The only time I’d ever heard of leukemia before was in junior high. The lady down the street had suddenly died of it. She was 33. I’m 32. I thought, “I’m gonna die,” and the tears started streaming.
Then the doctor said something I never thought I’d hear from a physician. She asked, “Are you Christians? Would you like me to pray?” I said, “Yes.” I thought doctors were all atheists, but here she was leading us in prayer in the ER in front of everyone.
I was so terrified I couldn’t cry right, just tears. I worried about my wife and kids. What would happen to them if I died? My wife would be a single mother. My kids would never know their father. I prayed that God would take care of my family when I was gone.
Cancer treatment is what they say it is—pain and suffering: A lot of both. But I found that with God on my side I could stand strong. I spent Christmas and New Years in a hospital bed.
That’s when the news got worse.
Although the oncologist predicted I had an 80% chance of going into remission after chemo, it only killed half of the leukemia cells. My prognosis dropped and my best chance of survival was having a bone marrow transplant.
My doctor referred me to a bone marrow specialist. He thought that based on my age and julietta casino online current health I had a 40% chance of survival, provided they could find a donor. (I later found out my chances were more like 10-12%.) I have one sibling, a sister, and there was only a 25% chance of her being a match. If she wasn’t, I had a 40% chance of finding a donor in the National Donors registry because I’m black. Whites have a 95% chance of finding a match.
I received two more rounds of chemo. Two weeks into the third treatment the Lord answered our prayers again. My sister turned out to be a perfect match. I underwent more high-dose chemo to kill all my bone marrow and then I received the transplant on Good Friday of 2004. Following a successful transplant I was sent home three weeks later.
I still have issues related to the transplant and it is not easy from day to day. But I am here and have the opportunity to raise my kids.
I also have a new mission that God has made clear to me: People and organizations from across the nation have contacted me regarding adding more people to the marrow registry. I’ve been asked by the National Marrow Donor Program to be involved with their HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) campaign to save African American lives. I’m a board member of MoreMarrowDonors.org (http://moremarrowdonors.org) and I maintain a site called BlackBoneMarrow.com (http://blackbonemarrow.com) to expand the campaign to save more lives.
Cancer patients are more likely to find donor matches from their own ethnic background. African Americans have more genetic diversity than any other race. However, the number of black donors on the national registry is still low. Registration is free, easy and painless—just a cheek swab (http://bethematch.org).
Learn more about how YOU COULD SAVE A LIFE!