BALTIMORE — September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and everyday dozens of kids are diagnosed with cancer. According to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, 43 kids are diagnosed daily. Some of those kids are being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital, like 4-year-old Ailani Myers.
Ailani is battling leukemia. Her parents were a little busy at the hospital so we talked with her aunt, Giggett Johnson. She said, "Ailani is a fighter. I don't care what she’s going through, she smiles through it. She’s just happy all the time. Even when she’s sick she’s smiling and just happy."
Most of Ailani's family is back home in Texas but her parents are with her in Baltimore until she doesn't need any more treatment.
"She did great for the whole first year," said Beth Carrion, an account manager for Be the Match. "About 2 weeks after that her mom texted me and said 58 percent of cancer cells were back."
Be the Match is a worldwide registry created to help people, like Ailani, find a stem cell or marrow donor.
"We have thousands of kids that we're working with nationwide that need to find a match on the registry," said Carrion. Ailani is only one of them. Unlike others on the registry, Ailani has some other treatment options. She went into remission after getting a marrow transplant from her dad, called a haplo transplant. Now, she's doing a different method of therapy, using her own blood cells.
Ailani describes it like this, "they take the blood out of me then they’re gonna put it in a magic machine and put it back in my body!" She added, "it’s gonna make me feel better."
Carrion stressed, "not all patients have that option so we just want to make sure that the simple process is just being added to the registry."
Right now, registration numbers are down significantly because of the coronavirus pandemic. Carrion said they can't host events where they usually recruit people to join so each rep has gone from getting hundreds of people sign up a month to around 50.
All you have to do is register online. You fill out some information then you'll get a swab kit in the mail. Anyone 18-60 can join and it's pre-paid for anyone 18-44.
"This could potentially save someone’s life. You could be that 1 in 430 that’s a match for a patient anywhere in the world," said Carrion.
"Our dream is not just help Ailani but help any child that needs help," said Johnson. She said she can't wait for Ailani and her parents to come back home.
"They’re strong. They’ve been through a lot they have to endure a lot but they’re strong. God got it," said Giggett. "They’re going to make it through this. It’s tense right now but they’re gonna make it through this."
On top of cancer, Ailani had a fungil infection. Her family said the infection has cleared but she could use platelets to help fight infection until her next transplant. To schedule a platelet donation through the American Red Cross, click here.
"Please god make me feel better," said Ailani. "Please make this cancer go away."