British Columbia

Richmond man with leukemia searches for Filipino stem cell donors

Members of the Filipino community are rallying behind a man from Richmond, B.C., diagnosed with two forms of leukemia.

Canadian Blood Services says Filipinos make up just 1% of its current donor bank

Martin Lintag is battling two types of leukemia. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Members of the Filipino community are rallying behind a man from Richmond, B.C., who needs a stem cell donation to fight cancer. 

Martin Lintag was diagnosed with two forms of leukemia last fall just after his 30th birthday.

"My mind was kind of at a standstill," Lintag said. "Like, wow, am I going to die? What happens next? What do I do now? It was paralyzing."

A few months later, Lintag is still grappling with those same questions. He's gone through chemotherapy and other forms of treatment, but it's been hard on his body. 

On Thursday, he found out the cancer isn't going away. Doctors have given him three months to a year to live.

"I'm subconsciously counting down how much time I have left," he said.

Lintag needs a stem cell donation to survive. But Sarah Jasmines with Canadian Blood Services says there are no matching donors on the registry.

"You only find matches within your own ethnic group, but in Martin's case he's Filipino," Jasmines said.

"That's about one per cent of our database, so you're looking for a needle in a haystack. For some communities, that haystack is a lot smaller than others."

Volunteers at the Croatian Cultural Centre organized a drive to find stem cell donor matches for Martin Lintag. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Friends and family are helping out. Volunteers organized a stem cell swab at Vancouver's Croatian Cultural Centre on Saturday, inviting people of similar backgrounds to have their DNA tested by swabbing their cheeks — in the hopes of finding a match.

Blood Services says finding a match is like winning the lottery, but campaigns like this have been successful in the past, offering some much-needed hope.

"It's really encouraging that I'm not alone in this fight," Lintag said.

Canadian Blood Services is urging more people to register so Lintag, and other patients like him, can get a second chance.

Lintag says he's looking into second opinions and alternative forms of therapy, and scrambling to find other potential treatments like clinical trials.

A man swabs his cheek to test if he could be a match for a stem cell donation for Martin Lintag, who is battling leukemia. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

With files from Jon Hernandez


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