While most kids her age are becoming familiar with dolls and their own bedrooms, 2-year-old Jazmyne is learning her way around hospitals and bulky, cold machines.
“Last year, October, she started having symptoms,” her mom, Ivett Zequeira-Chandler chokes up as she recalls the journey they’ve faced as a family. Jazmyne’s symptoms started with diarrhea and a fever that wouldn’t go away. Then one of her eyelids swelled shut. It took more than three weeks before one doctor recognized the problem.
“Her words were specifically: ‘don’t leave until you get an MRI,'” Ivett says.
Test after test confirmed the diagnosis – AML, or Acute Myeloid Leukemia; an aggressive form of cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. It’s rare in children, even more so for a 2-year-old. Chemotherapy alone cannot cure it, but doctors are confident a bone marrow transplant could.
But there’s a problem.
“There aren’t any matches for her right now,” says Stephanie Farah who runs the “Be the Match” registry at City of Hope.
“You would think that you could match your own brothers and sisters but the fact is you only have a 30 percent chance,” she said. “Our recruitment team here is working with Jazmyne and many many other patients, our main role is community outreach.”
The registry is part of a worldwide database and yet, finding a match is often very difficult, especially for someone like Jazmyne who is of Cuban decent.
“Caucasians can find a match 97 percent of the time,” Farah said. “It’s not that they’re better donors; they just have more to choose from.”
The Latino community, Black community, Asian community and even those of mixed race have a much more difficult time finding matches, simply because those communities are the least likely to follow through once they join the registry, Farah said.
For Jazmyne’s family, their hope is two-fold.
“Total recovery,” her dad Gregory Guillen says, “I want my daughter back. What we want for Jazmyne is for her to be able to live her life.”
Her mom goes a step further.
“We want to reach out to the Hispanic community and the importance of being the match to be donors – not just for Jazmyne’s life but for another family,” she said. “I would hate for another family to go through this and feel so hopeless that there’s no match for them and their child won’t make it.”
In order to volunteer to be on the registry, all it takes is a simple cotton swab on the inside of your cheek. You can order a kit online and have it sent to your home. Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 44.
For more information on the City of Hope Be the Match program, you can call 626-218-8483 or you can register directly here.
You can follow Jazmyne’s journey on Facebook.
The family has also set up a GoFundMe account to help with the mounting medical bills.
If you would like to donate to a GoFundMe account set up to help Jazmyne, you may do so here. Note that GoFundMe deducts a percentage of all funds raised in the form of platform and payment processing charges.
Photo Credit: KNBC-TV
Source: NBC Los Angeles