It was late Wednesday afternoon when the phone rang at Neos Kosmos. The caller, Evangelos Paschalis, wanted to express his thanks.
“Everyone should know that one day the blood they will donate may be the very one that saves their life, or the life of a loved one.”
“If it wasn’t for that story Neos Kosmos wrote about me, and the Greek community’s overwhelming response, I wouldn’t be alive,” he said.
Evangelos (37) had just become a father when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia last November.
“My type of blood cancer was classified as terminal, giving me a 12 to 16 per cent chance of survival and a two-month life expectancy within which I had to find a marrow donor,” he says.
As a suitable donor could not be found in the immediate family, a wider family and unrelated donor search began. Evangelos’ doctors told the family they were more likely to find a donor amongst members of the same ethnic community. That’s when his mother and sister contacted this newspaper.
“My story received so many shares in Australia and Greece, motivating hundreds of people to donate blood,” he adds.
“Honestly, I thought I wasn’t going to live to tell you, but finally, exactly two months after my diagnosis, we found a match from Germany with a fourth generation Greek connection.”
The long wait put Evangelos’ family in a dire financial and psychological situation and nearly cost him his life. Millions of donors from dozens of countries are listed worldwide, however, those from diverse racial and ethnic background are in the minority.
“Awareness is the key to make a change,” Evangelos says, stressing how many non-Caucasian people are losing the battle whilst waiting for a bone marrow match.
“I promised myself to call and let people know what an important tool the media, especially community channels, can be in such cases.”
During the six months he spent in hospital he saw many patients waging similar battles, some of whom didn’t make it back to their families.
He’s returned home determined to motivate Greek Australians and members of other ethnic communities to register as donors in an effort to help those impacted by leukaemia.
“There is still a risk my cancer might return once I’m off the medication which is suppressing it, but I feel great right now and I want to use my energy to give back,” he stresses.
“The Leukaemia Foundation was always there to support me and my family when I was undergoing chemo and radiation, and I received about 20 blood transfusions from Red Cross donations.”
Evangelos was perfectly healthy before his diagnosis and took his life for granted. His perspective has changed and believes that talking about what he experienced might make a difference to others.
“I feel so fortunate to be able to play with my little girl and hear her say her first words,” Evangelos says with Chloe in his arms.
“Nobody thinks leukaemia will knock on their door but everyone should know that one day the blood they will donate may be the very one that saves their life, or the life of a loved one.”
For more information visit The Leukaemia Foundation website at www.leukaemia.com