Seun Adebiyi is proud of his many accomplishments — graduating from Yale Law School, working for Goldman Sachs and even training for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the skeleton.
But he says none of that matters now.
“All of [my accomplishments] can’t save my life,” Adebiyi said.
Adebiyi, 26, is fighting two aggressive forms of cancer, lymphoblastic lymphoma and stem-cell leukemia.
He has made it his mission to try to get more minorities, especially African-Americans, to sign up for the National Marrow Donor Program. Adebiyi also started his own blog and attracted the support from celebrities like Rihanna.
“As an African-American, my chances of finding a match are somewhere between 3 and 7 percent,” said Adebiyi, who is from Nigeria but moved to the U.S. when he was 6. “That’s why donor drives are so critical. One of these people could give me a second chance at life.”
There are roughly 500,000 African-American potential donors, compared with five million whites.
A recent donor drive sponsored by non-profit DKMS attracted 250 potential donors and another 300 signed up online.
“Think of all the people who don’t have matches that have my really mixed-up background,” said Jo-Ann Simpson, who is from Jamaica and attended the drive. “It’s such a simple thing to save someone’s life.”
All that’s required to be added to the registry is a cheek swab, which takes about 30 seconds.
Experts say more donor drives in minority communities is one way the disparities in donors will decrease.
“Trying to increase the representation of minorities in the donor pools is really important,” said Dr. Luis Isola, head of bone marrow transplants at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “Having a bigger representation of each ethnic group benefits the people in those ethnic group because you increase the likelihood for matches.”
Anyone can sign up to be a bone marrow donor through DKMS’ website.
Footage from the documentary film “More to Live For” coming in 2010