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)

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

Wade Cudmore, seen here with his mother Kathy Richardson, had his first court appearance in relation to first degree murder charges in the deaths of Erick and Carlo Fryer Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kathy Richardson/Facebook)
Man charged in Naramata double homicide appears in Penticton court

Wade Cudmore appeared for the first time in relation to first degree murder charges

(John Arendt - Black Press)
Penticton wants to give you money to make something fun happen in the city

City launches community grant program to help post-COVID recovery

The defunct 100-year-old Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River in Washington State blocks access by salmon and steelhead to over 500 kilometres of high-quality river habitat, much of it in British Columbia. (Photo submitted by Alex Maier.)
An obsolete, environmentally harmful dam south of Osoyoos is one step closer to removal

The Enloe Dam hasn’t produced electricity since 1958; all it really does is block fish

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

With high temperatures forecasted for the week and into the next, Interior Health is offering some tips on how to keep yourself safe from heat-related illness. (Pixabay)
Interior Health offers safety tips as temperatures soar

‘Too much heat can be harmful to your health’

Teenagers make their way to Truswell Road after a party is broken up by police at the end of Mission Creek (Lorraine Besner/Contributed).
Kelowna residents concerned about ongoing alleged underage beach parties

Public urination, property damage, drinking and drug usage have become weekly concerns

Mayla Janzen and Ashley Hoppichler, with her daughters Lily and Sophia, are bringing a Friday evening market to Polson Park, starting July 2. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Entrepreneurs craft up Vernon night market

Friday evening Polson Park event to take place throughout the summer

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Six United Way chapters around the province are merging into United Way B.C. (News Bulletin file photo)
6 United Way chapters merging around B.C.

Money raised in communities will stay in those communities, agency says

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Most Read