ALAMEDA, California – Ten-year-old Filipino-American Myla Cunanan has been undergoing her second round of chemotherapy for myeloid sarcoma, a form of acute myeloid leukemia.
She needs a bone marrow transplant in order to survive and she’s been looking for a match since March.
Myla and her family were at the Asian American Donor Program (AADP) in Alameda recently to plan more donor drives to find possible matches for a transplant.
Unfortunately, Myla is not a match for any of her family members.
According to the AADP, patients have a 30 percent chance at finding a match within their family.
The other 70 percent must look into the national donor registry. For Filipinos, this is especially difficult.
"There are about 10.5 million donors who registered in the United States; however, there are only seven percent who are Asian and when we break it down into Japanese, Chinese, Korean there’s only less than one percent who are Filipino. So most Filipino patients will need a Filipino donor," AADP Recruitment Director Ruby Law said.
Law hopes more Asians can be aware of this deadly disease before it affects them personally.
“I think people don’t really think about it till it hits home,” said Law. “Most Asians, if I know you, I want to help you but if I don’t know you then why bother. But leukemia never discriminates it can happen to you, your family at anytime.”
Law says Myla is not the only one who needs your help.
Filipino-American Ryan Manansala from San Jose, Calif. has teamed up with Myla in finding Filipino donors in the Bay Area. Ryan, 29, relapsed from leukemia in March and is once again fighting cancer.
Also, Mai Duong, a 34-year-old mother from Montreal, Canada, is also looking for a donor. Even though Mai is Vietnamese, doctors found Filipino antigen markers in her system that makes her open to Filipino donors.
Becoming a donor is simple.
First, you have to be between the ages of 18-44. Then, you have to sign a consent form with your basic information. Finally, you will have to swab the inside of your cheeks so tissue can be recorded in the national registry.
Despite the small percentage of Filipino donors in the national registry, Myla’s mother Leyna is hopeful.
“We are very positive because we know God has a purpose for us,” said Leyna. “We know there is a reason why this is happening. That’s what I told Myla, maybe this happened to you so that we could bring more people to register and to help more people out there in order to save lives.”
For more information about becoming a bone marrow donor and a list of upcoming drives in your area go to www.aadp.org or call 800-593-6667.
If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, AADP will be having donor drives at the following events.
Saturday and Sunday, August 23-24
1333 Decoto Rd. Union City, CA 94587
The San Francisco Dragon Boat Race
Saturday and Sunday, September 20-21
Treasure Island, Building 180 Parking Lot