Jeremy Chow, a father of two, is encouraging British Columbians to donate stem cells after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in December. So far there are no stem cell matches for Chow, who is bi-racial Chinese and British. (Facebook)

In a fight against cancer, Victoria man’s only stem cell match was his own donation

More mixed race and Asian stem cell donors needed, says Victoria family

Jeremy Chow applied to be a stem cell donor a few years ago after watching a 30-second Canadian Blood Services commercial calling for Asian donors. The Victoria man was young and healthy and decided he would help out since, according to the commercial, there wasn’t enough Asian stem cell donors.

Jeremy Chow’s 10-year-old daughter drew a poster in support of her dad, who just finished chemotherapy.(Facebook/Match4Jeremy)

The father of two young girls had no way of knowing that soon, he would be in need of new stem cells and the only donor match would be unusable, because it was his own.

Chow started feeling sick in November. Normally he could power through a flu, recalled his wife, Evelyn, but this was different.

“This time he was stuck in bed, he couldn’t get up,” she said. “And then the chest pain showed up a few days after he was feeling a bit better. It hurt even for him to breathe.”

With flu-like symptoms and a band of pain around his chest, Chow went to the emergency room at Victoria General Hospital. At first doctors thought he had a virus that would pass, but when his condition didn’t approve, Chow went back to the ER.

After a number of blood tests, the doctor came in his hospital room and pulled up a chair. Chow’s heart sank.

He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia just before Christmas 2018.

Almost immediately, Chow began chemotherapy treatment in Vancouver, and now, months later he is happy to have completed his final round. For now, his hemoglobin and platelet counts will be monitored, but soon Chow’s body will begin to heal.

“We will continue on with treatment and just hope and pray that when he’s in remission, he stays in remission,” Evelyn said.

RELATED: Hannah Day swab drive attracts huge crowd

RELATED: Technology key to reaching new donors: Canadian Blood Services

But there’s one piece of the treatment puzzle that Chow can’t access as easily as Caucasian patients can: stem cells.

According to Canadian Blood Services, these life-sustaining immature blood cells are found in bone marrow, peripheral circulating blood and umbilical cord blood. They can become red or white blood cells or platelets and do incredible work for people like Chow, replacing their unhealthy cells and reducing the likelihood that the cancer will return.

Stem cell donations can be made through bone marrow stem cell donation or through peripheral blood stem cells which are drawn through a needle in a non-surgical procedure.

But stem cells can only be donated to recipients with similar genetic makeup to the donor. Matches are determined according to DNA markers – antigens found on white blood cells and inherited from both parents.

For Chow, who is half British and half Canton Chinese, there are no available donors in the national or worldwide registry.

“I was disheartened when I heard that there was no match for Jeremy, and then talking more with Canadian Blood Services and [learning] the fraction of how many mixed-race donors there are in the registry – three per cent is not great,” Evelyn said.

Chow might not get a stem cell transplant, but he and Evelyn are working, alongside Canadian Blood Services, to push for awareness around the need for donors, especially donors of bi-racial or Asian descent.

Chow said: “If all of this goes well [and] I stay in remission, and the awareness is out there and other people sign up to be donors and other people are getting the help they need, then that’s a win.”

The couple is organizing stem cell drives in Vancouver and hope to host a drive in Victoria soon. To learn more about donating, visit blood.ca/en.

RELATED: B.C. businessmen open stem cell therapy clinic in Washington State



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

STARS transports man with gunshot wound

Reports of man involved in hunting incident air lifted out of Fairmont Hot Springs airport

When it’s all fun and games… and a little dust

An inside look at how Mainstreet Fun and Games chooses inventory

Accordion “still always big in demand”

Franz Grasegger invited to play on summer music tour with accordion

Hop downtown to hug the Easter Bunny

Easter activities across the Valley

Support through grief at hospice society

7th annual Butterfly Gala raises funds for Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley

Homeless activists outside Notre Dame demand ‘a roof too’

Wealthy people have donated millions to effort to rebuild cathedral after devastating fire

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

PHOTOS: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says ‘I do’ on Earth Day

May and John Kidder got married Monday morning in Victoria

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Ex-mayor of northern village claims its drivers are overpaying ICBC $1,800 a year

Darcy Repen says data shows Telkwa households are being ripped off for car insurance

Deadly synthetic drug found in Kamloops that puts users in ‘zombielike’ state

Interior Health warning says substance causes ‘speedy, trippy-like symptoms’ and hallucinations

Trudeau to be portrayed on ‘Simpsons’ episode

Toronto journalist who’s posted videos of himself doing impressions of the PM voiced him for the show

New MRI unit increases access

Interior Health aims for 5100 exams in Cranbrook this year

Elizabeth May’s wedding dress a ‘walk through a garden’ on Earth Day

Green Party leader set to get married in Victoria

Most Read