In late 2009, metro Atlanta resident Jermaine Reid was participating in a basketball game at his son’s school when he realized he was having difficulty catching his breath.
He found himself gasping for air, the passages in his nose restricted with blood clots, as he suffered intense fatigue and an overwhelming headache.
He was only 38 at the time and although he had been off the court for some years, he knew that something serious was afflicting him.
After bloodwork and further examination at Northside Hospital’s Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program, Jermaine was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Jermaine shared his story at the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute 2022 BMT Reunion about the day he received his diagnosis.
"I said to myself: I don't care what this is; there is no way I'm about to die," Jermaine told the audience. He thought about his wife and children.
"One of the first things that came to my mind was a quote that I had heard ... 'Your first response to good or bad news will determine your victory or defeat.'"
AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The American Cancer Society estimates that 11,310 Americans will die from the cancer in 2023, a little more than half the number of newly diagnosed cases this year. It is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults.
Even after chemotherapy had settled Jermaine's cancer into remission, it became apparent that he would need a bone marrow transplant if he were going to live. His care team went to Be The Match®, the national marrow donor registry.
However, the chances of a Black man finding a donor match in the registry are thin, with only a 29% chance compared to a 79% chance for Caucasians.
Despite unfavorable odds, Jermaine was able to find a donor, and on May 28, 2010, he received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.
Following regulations from Be The Match, Jermaine finally had the opportunity to meet his donor, a United States Air Force member, a year after his transplant took place. The two men have developed a special and close relationship founded on this incredible shared experience.
"Because of him, I am able to continue my life, continue to fulfill the will of God for my life, and build a legacy and memories with my family," said Jermaine.
Today, Jermaine is a volunteer ambassador for Be The Match.
"I feel an obligation, being that I have come through AML Leukemia and don't have a trace of it," he said.
Watch Jermaine's story here:
Jermaine also told his story to National Bone Marrow Transplant Link podcast in December 2022. Listen here.
*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.