Meet Julian Ho, a 15 year old boy from Calgary who was previously a competitive swimmer.
At the age of 13, his and his family's life was turned upside down. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). After multiple rounds of chemo with ensuing complications and a failed stem cell transplant in February 2021, his cancer has now returned. He is now in need of a second stem cell transplant and no suitable donor has been found.
Join us to give hope for Julian Ho, a fifteen-year-old leukemia patient who has been fighting this cancer since February 2020 when he was thirteen, by becoming a potential donor with the Canada Blood Services Stem Cell Registry.
Julian Ho, who has been 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 has been healthy throughout his childhood. He lives 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 has on 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 with 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 hospital when he didn’t have work obligations.
Julian is 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 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 hospital).
In November 2020, the painful monthly bone marrow examination showed that Julian had a relapse of the 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 lifted spirit on the going back to school plan in September, then the next bomb was dropped on his life in mid July – the cancer relapsed again with more aggressiveness. He was rushed back to the hospital once again and was told that Julian 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 reflects on what he has gone through and is grateful for all the support he received. He says, “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.”
If you are between the ages of 17 and 35 and are of Asian descent, you could be the life saving match and hope that Julian desperately needs! You could register as a potential donor here: blood.ca/Hope4Julian
For more information on Stem Cell transplant and eligible donors, please refer to the website below:
Though Dennis’ job provides decent medical insurance, there are additional expenses that are not covered. The family continues to have hope and strong faith in conquering this vicious cancer, additional expenses not covered by insurance continues to drain their savings. If you wish to join this fight by providing some financial support to the family, please follow this GoFundMe link to donate:
What is acute
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.
The word "acute" in acute myelogenous leukemia denotes the disease's rapid progression. It's called myelogenous (my-uh-LOHJ-uh-nus) leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called the myeloid cells, which normally develop into the various types of mature blood cells, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
On September 18, 2021, Julian and his parents were featured on CTV Calgary to continue to spread the word as they continue to seek a stem cell match. Hear from Julian, Jennifer, and Dennis on their hopes to find a match.
Roshlind Kate Mance, a cancer survivor who received stem cell donation, shared her personal experience
These recordings were done during a radiothon for the Alberta Children's Hospital back in February 2021. They talk about how he was diagnosed, his treatments, and his challenges. During this radiothon, he was just about to embark on his first stem cell transplant.