Ethan Fleming is fighting cancer for the second time in his life. He is about to undergo a stem cell transplant, with cells harvested from his 17-year-old sister. (Submitted photo)

B.C. teen donating stem cells for brother’s second fight with cancer

Chilliwack’s Fleming family appealing to the public to look into stem cell donation

Ethan Fleming is a fighter, and fighters can get pretty hungry.

He’s facing down his second cancer diagnosis, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and recently the only thing he was craving was a particular Chunky soup. With the empty shelves all around, his mom Tanna couldn’t find a can anywhere near the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver.

So she did what any mom would do — she posted a plea on Facebook. And the community answered. It didn’t take long for can upon can of Ethan’s favourite soup to arrive at their home in Chilliwack.

It’s that outpouring of love that they are counting on for support, as the family braces for the next big steps. Right now, the family of four is channeling all their strength inward, as one child steps up bravely to help the other.

At age 17, Ethan’s big sister Rebecca just squeezes into the age category for ideal stem cell donors, of 17-35. She’s already been through several rounds of tests, and self isolated herself the very minute school ended for spring break.

It was an easy choice for Rebecca, who was also right beside her brother when fought osteosarcoma for two years, beginning at age seven. He had been cancer free for five years, but the MDS was caused by his previous chemotherapy.

READ MORE: In a fight against cancer, Victoria man’s only stem cell match was his own donation

As it turns out, Rebecca is a seven out of 10 match to her brother. She’s healthy and strong, and there are no cancer markers in her blood. As it looks right now, she will be harvested for her stem cells just after Easter weekend. A special machine to do the work has been put on order, and the Fleming’s medical team is preparing for a successful transplant.

But these aren’t ordinary times. The whole process is fraught with potential problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the family can get sick — dad Walter is already only visiting infrequently. He is a milk truck driver and considered an essential worker, doing his part to keep milk flowing to local grocery stores.

It’s impossible to know how overloaded the hospital will be in two weeks. Equipment that is needed for COVID-19 patients is also equipment that is needed for Ethan.

The doctors can’t get sick. The medical staff can’t sick. And once the process starts, it has to forge ahead.

They can’t leave the Ronald McDonald House either, as restrictions on moving in and out have changed due to the pandemic.

And so they wait for the word that it’s all going ahead, and they try to stay positive.

But there is something that they are asking anyone who reads this to do. They want everyone to consider giving blood, and to especially consider registering as a stem cell donor. It’s not a simple procedure to be a donor, but it’s nothing compared to what Ethan and other cancer patients endure.

“It’s not a simple process but are you willing to save someone’s life by doing this?,” Tanna says. “I’ve been pushing as much as I can, ‘please donate, please donate, please donate,’ there’s only so much I can do as a mom.”

So much of what is happening now is in the hands of others, she says. But she can get the message out about blood and stem cell donation. And she can share her son’s story.

And like all families who are focused on keeping a loved one alive, they are graciously accepting funds as well. There were several events set up to help the Flemings financially, including one planned for The Well at Elements Casino in Chilliwack. But as the concerns over COVID-19 grew, the events all had to be cancelled.

There is a Facebook page called Ethan’s World, where they post photos and updates as much as possible. There is also a link to the GoFundMe account a family member set up to organize donations, called The Fleming Family.

Both kids are already busy members of the community, Tanna says, and she’s proud of Chilliwack for supporting them in return.

Ethan is a War Champ and has been in the Remembrance Day parade laying a wreath for the veterans, for example.

Right now, the hardest part for all them is the separation of the family.

“I’m doing okay,” Tanna says. “But it’s hard for me, I have a hard time because Walter’s not here. And for Ethan, that’s the hardest part of the transplant. They’re best buds.”

To learn more about the stem cell donation process, or how you can give blood, visit blood.ca.

READ MORE: Canadian Blood Services worried about appointment cancellations during pandemic


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/gdx4z-the-fleming-family?fbclid=IwAR0dE6INuhsXYu5hpBgV5tYeWTaZkBl7Jsw66TxcrOdzme16afv7Rpoa3aA

Cancerfundraiser

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley Lodge reports one new COVID-19 death, bringing total to 24

Death toll surpassed 22 on Wednesday, making that specific outbreak the deadliest in B.C.

IHIT names homicide victim found in the Fraser Canyon this week

Police asking for tips into the suspicious death of 29-year-old Alicia Berg

VIDEO: Seventy-two Langley Fine Arts students record collaboration on their cellphones

Musicians performed Lake from Patrick Hawes’ work The Blue Bird Variations

VIDEO: Langley Fundamental jazz band performs for local seniors every Thursday

Music group joined by graduates looking to celebrate and spread cheer in the community

LETTER: Walnut Grove man wants gun ban clarified before taking stance

A local letter writer looked into gun ban and came away more confused by the rules

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Aldergrove Star to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

IHIT investigating ‘suspicious’ death of Surrey man

Officers found the body while on foot patrol: Surrey RCMP

Most Read