Hundreds of Albertans of Asian descent have registered to be stem cell donors this month thanks to some Edmonton sisters’ efforts to save their brother.
Bille Nguyen has Stage 4 subcutaneous panniculitis t-cell lymphoma — a rare blood cancer.
One doctor gave him a 10 per cent chance of survival, unless the 25-year-old can have a stem cell transplant in June.
The problem is only 16 per cent of registered donors on OneMatch are of Asian descent. Bille is of Vietnamese-Chinese descent. His best bet for a match is a man of similar ethnicity, between the ages 17 and 35.
“It’s already hard to match but way harder for an Asian to match because there’s so few of us that know about (OneMatch) and are signing up,” his sister Susan Nguyen explained.
Bille’s three sisters have been organizing stem cell donor registration drives and spreading the word through posters in Asian restaurants and churches, social media and radio ads. Their latest event on May 6 registered 665 people. They were expecting 100.
“It was amazing,” Bille said.
“I can’t believe people are willing to take time out of their own day to help a complete stranger, somebody they don’t even know… somebody like me.”
Bille has completed five of his six prescribed rounds of chemotherapy but his cancer continues to progress.
He says his cancer has brought his family closer together and he’s doing his best to stay strong for them.
“I don’t want (my family) to see me sad or broken. It would make them feel worse. And they would have to worry about me more. I try to stay positive so they don’t have to think about it.”
“My only way of repaying them right now is to get better.”
Registrants in the database can be matched with patients around the world. They can choose to donate or not. The procedure is similar to a blood donation.
Watch: Three Edmonton sisters are trying to find a stem cell donor for their little brother. Because of his ethnic background, the odds are against him, but the family isn’t giving up. Su-Ling Goh reports.