Jeremy Chow’s priority was taking care of his family, says a close friend. The Saanich man died on May 30 from acute myeloid leukemia. The Chow family fought for more than two years to find a stem cell donor for Jeremy, who was of mixed Asian and European genetics. (Facebook/Match4Jeremy)

Vancouver Island father dies of leukemia after battle to find mixed-race stem cell donor

Jeremy Chow fought to diversify donor pool

A Saanich father who fought to grow the data bank of mixed-race stem cell donors has died of leukemia.

Jeremy Chow was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in November 2018. While chemotherapy treatment worked and Jeremy entered remission, doctors advised that stem cell therapy would be the best possible treatment to eradicate the risk of returning cancer cells.

But when Jeremy and his wife Evelyn Chow began their quest to find a match, they learned there were virtually no donors in the national or worldwide registry who matched Jeremy’s genetic makeup – a requirement for a successful stem cell transplant.

READ ALSO: In a fight against cancer, Victoria man’s only stem cell match was his own donation

Ironically, Jeremy had applied to become a stem cell donor years earlier. When doctors searched the database they found one unusable match: his own donation. Shocked and saddened by the lack of options, the family spearheaded the Match4Jeremy campaign, organizing stem cell drives and raising awareness of the dire need for mixed race and Asian donors.

On Aug. 8, 2019, the family learned that Jeremy’s cancer had returned. But the Chows battle to find a match didn’t slow down. They worked with the Otherhalf-Chinese Stem Cell Initiative to host an emergency stem cell drive in Vancouver that month.

Despite their tireless efforts, Jeremy did not recover from the second round of cancer. The father of two died on May 30 with his wife at his side.

On a GoFundMe page aimed at raising money for his daughters’ educations, family friend Jenny Leung says Jeremy “fought hard” and did it with “grace, humour and a positive attitude.”

READ ALSO: Stem cell donor with rare genetic makeup needed to save Saanich man after cancer returns

“Jeremy’s priority was always being able to provide and take care of his family,” Leung writes. “He was so involved with his girls’ lives, from driving them to their extracurricular activities to attending school fairs, to braiding their hair and explaining to them the importance of a good education.

“He was always looking for a way to care for those around him whether it meant sharing knowledge, offering a helping hand, or just being there in any way he could,” she added. “Jeremy was truly someone to look up to and although he was always supporting others, he rarely asked for anything in return.”

Evelyn Chow (left) and Jeremy Chow with their daughters. The family fought for more than two years to find a stem cell match for Jeremy, who died from Acute Myeloid Leukemia on May 30. (Facebook/Match4Jeremy)

While the Chow family fought for a match for Jeremy, their crusade for stem cell donors gained momentum when they realized just how dire the situation was for mixed-race and Asian Canadians. Only three per cent of the Canadian Blood Services stem cell registry is mixed race.

In March 2019, Jeremy spoke with Black Press Media.

“If all of this goes well [and] I stay in remission, and the awareness is out there and other people sign up to be donors and other people are getting the help they need, then that’s a win,” he said.

Donations are being accepted via GoFundMe to support Jeremy’s family and his daughters’ future education.

READ ALSO: Victoria couple continues fight for increased diversity in Canadian stem cell registry

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
nina.grossman@blackpress.ca


@NinaGrossman
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