Teen donates stem cells to father diagnosed with aggressive stage-4 cancer

Updated: May. 23, 2019 at 9:26 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Time. Each tick of the 86,400 seconds we get each day, always moving forward. Even when getting some of the toughest news sets you back.

“He admitted me to the hospital and did a bone marrow biopsy. That’s how the diagnosis was made. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” says Adolphus Bonar, recalling the day he was told he had cancer.

News of this aggressive stage 4 cancer in 2014 meant not a second of time could be wasted.

“My kids were 16 and 17 years old. [I] got a wife. My mom is still around. You have a whole lot of siblings. You got all these things going through your head,” said Bonar.

His doctor, Dr. Nilanjan Ghosh with Atrium Health, was there from the beginning.

“It was really heartbreaking when we first met him. He had lymphoma... called Hodgkins Lymphoma. This was all over his body including his bone marrow,” said Dr. Ghosh.

Chemotherapy was an order.... as well as blood transfusions multiple times a week. It kept Bonar in the hospital for months.

“The only way he can get his life back and get over this disease would be by doing an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately he didn’t have a suitable match donor,” said Dr. Ghosh.

That is what is often heard for bone marrow transplant patients who are black. There’s not a large enough pool of black donors in the bone marrow registry, giving African-Americans a 20 percent chance of finding a full match donor. For perspective white recipients have an 80-percent chance of finding a perfect match.

But advances in research and technology, and with the growing transplant program at Levine Cancer Institute, doctors found they can treat blood cancers like lymphoma using a half match donor. In this case Bonar’s own son, weeks from graduating from high school at the time, stepped up to donate his healthy stem cells to his father.

The entire procedure was done here in Charlotte at Levine Cancer Institute on April 1, 2015. Bonar has been in remission since, recently witnessing the same some son graduate again... this time from college!

“He reminded me jokingly he saved my life,” said Bonar chuckling.

“They have moved on. That’s what we want. If we can have people we are able to cure and they don’t need us any more after that, that’s the best thing we can do,” says Dr. Ghosh.

Moving forward just like each second of time... which has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.

Bonar is a physician himself. He is an endocrinologist, and he’s thriving in his career in Gastonia.

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