A stranger may help put an end to Sujith's cancer. It could even be you.
Sujith Nayar didn't realize just how unique he was until his world came to a standstill on Nov. 1, 2015.
The 35-year-old from Brisbane, Queensland, in Australia was rushed to the emergency room with chest pains only to find out his heart was perfectly fine.
It was his blood that wasn't.
Many tests later, he was given an unwelcome diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukemia Philadelphia positive.
It's not easy to say that five times fast. And as it turns out, it's not easy to treat it, either. The disease is an uncommon strain of an already rare type of leukemia. It's so rare, it barely shows up in an internet search. (And that's when you know something is rare. The internet knows everything.)
Sujith began chemotherapy almost immediately after his diagnosis while trying to fully understand the disease and what was going on in his body. So far, he's gone through six successful rounds of chemo to slow the disease down. He reached remission, but there's a big reality he has to face.
"My treatment can only be complete once I receive a bone marrow transplant," Sujith wrote on his website, Hope4Sujith. "I need to find a bone marrow donor so that I can survive this disease and live a fuller and longer life."
Many people don't know how easy it is to become a donor – and potentially save someone's life.
Including Sujith's own family.
"So many people had never even heard of the marrow registry and had no idea what was involved in the transplant process," Sujith's sister, Lakshmi, told Upworthy. "Eight months ago, I hadn't either."
30% of patients who find themselves needing a transplant will have a matching donor within their families according to the Institute for Justice. But when no one in Sujith's family matched, he was forced to join the 70% of people who must hope a stranger will come to their rescue.
Sujith's family is working to make that happen through the websites we all use every day.
His family launched an online campaign, Hope4Sujith, to help him find his match. It's quickly spreading around the world.
It's making a significant impact. They're breaking stigma, opening eyes, and growing a global community. Thanks, internet!
They're breaking the misconception that bone marrow donation is a scary and very difficult thing to do. It's not.
"The transplant process is a lot simpler than most people imagine," Lakshmi said. "People get scared when they hear the words 'bone marrow.' In fact, most registries have moved away from calling it that and call it marrow or stem cell donation."
Whatever you want to call it, the donation process isn't as intimidating as it's often made out to be. You can learn more about the full process here or take it from a past donor herself (who was nervous at first!).
Hope4Sujith has been holding donation clinics in three different countries and showing just how easy it is to join the donor registry either online or offline. And they're not kidding! It took me less than 10 minutes online, and now I feel like a better, more compassionate human.
You can register yourself online by going to this site. Or you can find a registering event near you, if real-life interactions are your thing.
Hope4Sujith's campaign is also helping to connect with the families of other patients who are searching for a donor match for a loved one.
"I am always conscious of the fact that it may not be our own effort, or one of our drives, that finds a match for my brother. It could be a drive conducted by the family of another patient in some other part of the world that finds the match for Sujith. But maybe our efforts or one of our drives will find a match for someone else too.
It is like we are paying it forward, or backward, or all around. When someone signs up to a registry anywhere in the world, they are agreeing to donate to anyone they may be a match for, whether they know them or not."
Part of their push for donors comes because of the difficulty many minorities face in finding a match.
Because tissue type is most likely to match someone of the same race and ethnicity, it is much harder for South Asians, Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans to find a match because they are so underrepresented. Sujith's team has been extra strategic about reaching out to the South Asian community to help fill the gap.
"I truly believe we are all in this together," Lakshmi says. "This campaign has taught me, through the reach of the internet and Facebook, just how connected we all are. And how easily we can help each other."
She says that if her team can inspire people to take the simple action of joining the registry, they will have made a difference to someone's life and to those who love them.
Let's give them, and the 20,000 other people who await a transplant every year, the support and encouragement they need. If you're able, share this and sign up to be a donor. You never know who could be waiting for a match like you.