Julian Ho was an amazing young man whose compassion and love for others filled his heart. He was a responsible, hardworking student and a dedicated competitive swimmer.
Julian’s cancer journey began in February 2020 when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at the age of 13. In the total 22 months that followed, he endured intensive chemotherapy, infections and relapses of cancer. Like many cancer patients, Julian required more than 150 transfusions of red blood cells and platelets over the course of his illness. Following his stem cell transplant which used cells from his mother, he also needed other blood products from plasma.
During his illness, Julian began a stem cell drive campaign under hope4julian.com in order to find a donor for himself and others. He always wanted to do more to encourage people to donate towards cancer awareness and research and blood to cancer patients. In his passing in December 2021, Julian hoped that his legacy will be carried on.
He always said, “No kids should have to suffer like this”.
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Julian Ho, who was an active supporter of the Children’s Hospital Foundation – by asking people who want to send him gifts to donate to the foundation - since 2015 - never thought he himself would one day be on the receiving end.
Julian Ho was born in May 2006 in Calgary, Alberta to Asian parents, Dennis and Jennifer. He is their only child and was healthy throughout his childhood. He lived a very healthy lifestyle being a swimmer and dedicated student.
As a competitive swimmer, Julian was used to the rigors of training. During his Ironman training in February 2020, he found himself unusually exhausted after swim practice. His family doctor ordered blood work, and the very next day he was rushed to the Alberta Children’s Hospital emergency; he was told he has Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). In that instant, his family’s world was turned upside down and the roller coaster started. Words cannot describe the shock, worries, and panic feelings the family had with this devastating news.
With no time to waste, doctors wanted to keep Julian in hospital for five cycles of chemotherapy immediately, at the same time Julian had to fight fungal infections and other complications. Due to various challenges, Julian ended up staying in the hospital for six months; his mother stayed by his side 24X7 most days and his father, being the only breadwinner of the family, spent every possible minute at the hospital when he didn’t have work obligations.
Julian was a fighter, after a long six months of struggles he finished all chemotherapy sessions in August 2020 and was able to return home with frequent visits to the hospital. He was in remission with high energy for activities and a great appetite to enjoy his mother’s cooking once again. He was excited to be able to go back to school and started grade 9
(he had been keeping up with schoolwork from the hospital).
In November 2020, the painful monthly bone marrow examination showed that Julian had a relapse of cancer. Doctors came up with more aggressive (and painful) chemotherapy treatments to be followed by a stem cell transplant plan. They started to look for potential donors but due to the pandemic (COVID) situation in the world, the chance of finding a donor shrunk dramatically due to international travel restrictions. The only option was finding a match from one of his parents, though the recommended age range for stem cell donors is between 17 to 35. Julian’s mother, Jennifer, is healthy and turned out to be a “half-match” for Julian; in February 2021 the stem cell transplant procedure was performed successfully. After four weeks of struggling and under the loving care of doctors and nurses, Julian’s body finally adapted the new stem cells, and he was able to return home for recovery in March 2021. He finished his grade 9 in the comfort of home.
Julian was enjoying home and doing things like outdoor walks while still being very careful with a weak immune system during COVID time. He was so cheerful and with a lifted spirit anticipated going back to school in September. Then, the next bomb was dropped on his life in mid-July of 2021 – the cancer relapsed again with more aggressiveness. He was rushed back to the hospital once again and was told that he would need to undergo another Stem Cell transplant.
The medical team worked hard on a treatment plan and at the same time is searching for a suitable donor for Julian. However, up to this point, no suitable donor has been identified and the search continues. Although the likelihood of finding a donor match within the Asian community is stacked against him, the parents feel that they could help their son by starting their own search for a potential match for Julian. Since Julian is of Asian ethnicity, his best chance of finding a match would be from someone of Asian descent.
Julian often reflected on what he went gone through and was grateful for all the support he received. He said, “I’m not going to lie, there were some really tough times, and I was very sick. It would be more devastating and upsetting to know if there was nothing more the medical team could do. Facing cancer is a pretty huge challenge and I pray that I will live to conquer cancer with the hope of a new donor.”
Unfortunately, Julian’s battle ended on December 5, 2021. Julian passed away peacefully in the early morning, surrounded by his family. In the days leading up to his last breath, Julian had been experiencing constant pain from coughing and had difficulty sleeping. We are grateful that he is now pain-free and resting with his Father in heaven. Thank you for all your prayers and care over the many months. It has made a difference knowing that you are with us in this journey.
Thank you so much for all your responses and support to both Julian and the stem cell drive. It has been overwhelming to see the amount of attention and activity that this campaign has generated! We are so grateful for every person who has liked, commented, shared and signed up for the drive. Each of you is making a difference in this battle against cancer.
Julian’s hope is that the stem cell drive and blood donations continue in order to provide much-needed resources for others who are still fighting cancer. Please consider carrying on his legacy in the coming months as we press on to help the many others who need transplants.
Thank you for your support and prayers.
Honour Julian's memory by donating blood.
With Julian's birthday this spring, we'd like to invite you all to donate blood in honor of his memory. A single blood donation can make a lifesaving difference to someone in need. Your donation has a direct impact on patients in Canada and the families who love them.
By donating and joining Julian's "Partners for Life" team, we are doing more than just committing to raising awareness and recruiting new donors.
Join the team:
Set up an account on blood.ca or on the GiveBlood app for Apple or Android
Select “partners” from the menu
Select “join a team” and search "In Honour of Julian Ho" – a drop down list will appear.
Book your next appointment either through your team bookings (visible under your team) or as an individual.
When registering or donating, make sure to use Account ID: DENN0102694 to register the donation under our team!
Register to join our Partners for Life team and get set up to start donating blood today!
in the time since...
We'd like to thank everyone who supported and contributed towards Julian's Legacy. Through you, we were able to give $10,100 back to the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation for childhood cancer research.