SAN JOSE, California – Twenty-nine year old Filipino-American Ryan Manansala is once again fighting for his life.
Manansala was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in 2012. He needed a bone marrow transplant, but could not find a match, not even among his family.
Last year, his family sold their house and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for an alternative remedy—a cord blood transplant.
After a successful operation, Manansala faces another devastating realization. He has relapsed and is once again fighting cancer—this time with tougher odds.
"Not many people survive the second time around. First time there's a good statistics [on] survival rate but with relapse, it’s a little harder. It's a lot stronger, and a lot faster this time around than last time," he said.
Rather than lose hope in his own situation, Manansala has chosen to continue to be an inspiration to others.
"You have all these Facebook messages, people are telling me their stories, their personal stories about leukemia," he said. "You start realizing you aren't the only one and you are being an inspiration to other people. At the same time I'm being inspired from hearing other people's stories. So it's like a whole family of cancer survivors patients that all kind of gather to support each other."
Even though Manansala is specifically looking for Filipino donors, there is a huge shortage for minority donors, in general. Many minority blood cancer patients suffer every year without finding a match.
Advocates from the Asian American Donor Program said it is not difficult at all to help Manansala and other cancer patients.
A potential donor just needs to be between 18 and 44 years old to register. Then you can sign on to through Asian American Donor Program at AADP.org.
Thi Lie of the Asian American Donor Program says Manansala needs a donor who is full or part Filipino. Out of the 10.5 million donors registered through the AADP, less than half of one percent are of Filipino or Pacific Islander decent.
"What you're actually donating are stem cells and stem cells are found in the blood streams and they are found in the marrow," Lie explained. "So most of the time now, with new technology and procedures, it's similar to donating platelets of blood. A second procedure which is done, not as common but simple as well, is where you are put in general anesthesia for a little bit for an hour. Marrow is taken from your hip bone and you go home the same day.”
Despite all the pain and struggles he is facing, Manansala is still hopeful that somewhere, someone out there will save his life.
"It still comes down to that one person who registers. It’s a quick cotton swab. Fill out your name and that’s all. It’s giving me a chance, as well as other patients," he said.