Bone marrow transplants are often the only treatment for blood-related cancers. The treatment, however, is dependent on the patient finding a donor who shares a similar genetic makeup. In most cases, that means the match is found in someone of the same race. But the black community has a particularly tough time attracting donors.
Shawn Austin sits in the living room of his home in Brooklyn.
“She’s beautiful in that picture,” Austin says as he grabs a photo of his wife from on top of the piano. The picture shows an African-American woman with long straight hair, a slender build, and a mischievous smile. That was Shawn’s 42-year-old wife last year. In September, Jennifer Jones Austin was diagnosed with leukemia.
“You know my immediate thought was, I am going to lose my wife to cancer,” Austin says. But he learned that there was one way to save his wife’s life. Through a bone marrow transplant. The transplant would use the bone marrow cells of another person to replace Jennifer’s cells.