ALAMEDA, CA — The month of November is National Bone Marrow awareness month, and one Bay Area-based group is trying to find as many donors as possible to save the lives affected by blood cancers, especially those who are of Filipino descent.
Filipina American Mylanah Yolangco is trying to save as many lives as possible through her position as community outreach coordinator of the Asian American Donor Program or AADP.
She works with various organizations to help spread knowledge that people with life-threatening blood cancers, like leukemia and lymphoma, can be saved through bone marrow transplants.
“November is bone marrow donor Awareness Month, but throughout the year we’re always trying to register more stem cell and bone marrow donors, especially those of Asian, Hispanic or African American ethnicity, because a lot of patients who come from those communities have a hard time finding a match.”
It’s even harder for Filipinos to find a match.
According to AADP, Filipinos make up less than one half of a percent of the national bone marrow registry.
“When patients first find out that they need a stem cell or bone marrow transplant they will look to their family first but it’s actually only 30% of patients that will have a match in their family and 70% of patients will have slipped to the national registry. And most of the time, someone will match with a donor who’s the same ethnicity as them because they have to have the same HLA markers or tissue type, and your tissue types are passed on from your parents. So the closer you are genetically to someone, the more likely it is to match with th
Despite the odds, AADP has successfully matched donors with recipients in the past, including Filipinos.
In 2015, Boston-based Kristine Sydney donated her bone marrow that saved the life of Bay Area-based Pinay Mailyna Mayate.
And in 2017, Louisville-based CJ Calanoc matched with northern California teenager Trish Tran.
“When a donor and recipient me it’s a very emotional time for everyone. It’s really indescribable. But you could just see in their faces and their families faces and their friends faces that this is something that literally has changed someone’s life, not just the patient’s life but the family and their loved ones.”
AADP hopes they can find a match for Filipino American Desmond Viray — who has been battling leukemia for the last nine years.
To register to become a stem cell and marrow donor, text AADP to 61474.