Graduate of Yale Law School, Olympic hopeful faces greatest challenge yet

Posted October 12th, 2016 by Be The Match and filed in News
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Olympic hopeful and Yale Law School graduate, Seun, was diagnosed with two potentially terminal blood cancers at the age of 26.

Olympic hopeful and Yale Law School graduate, Seun, was diagnosed with two potentially terminal blood cancers at the age of 26.

Seun is not the kind of guy to back down from a challenge. Not only is he a graduate of Yale Law School, he is also a skeleton racer—a winter sport similar to luge—with his eye on competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

But no amount of study, practice or discipline could prepare him for his greatest challenge—being diagnosed with two terminal blood cancers one week before his 26th birthday. He needed a marrow transplant, and fast.

The bad news got worse, when he learned that his Nigerian ancestry could make it harder to find a match. Because patients are most likely to match someone of the same ethnic background, he turned to his homeland in hopes of finding a donor.

Unfortunately, Nigeria didn’t have a registry. But Seun wouldn’t take no for an answer. Instead, he launched Nigeria’s first bone marrow drive. And while Seun was busy helping improve the odds that other patients could find a match, an umbilical cord unit on the Be The Match Registry would his life-saving cell source.

Seun received his transplant and is back in training, on track to pursue his Olympic dreams.

 His career, however, has changed course. He switched from a legal career to working for the American Cancer Society, committing his life to helping other cancer patients gain access to treatment.

And he didn’t stop there. He has also helped start Nigeria’s first marrow donor registry, so people of African ancestry can find their match—no matter where in the world they live.

27 Responses to “Graduate of Yale Law School, Olympic hopeful faces greatest challenge yet”

  1. Jean Reilly says:

    I have been registered as a potential donor for many years. I turned 60 in September. Am I correct that it is no longer possible for me to be considered as a donor due to my age?

    • Abby says:

      It’s actually 61. Be the Match will move you to an inactive status on your 61st birthday.

      • Jackie says:

        Hi Abby
        Like Jean I have been registered for many years, and never called upon, and will turn 61 in December of this year. I did not know there is an age limit. Are there exceptions for potential doners in exceptionally good health?

        • bob mc says:

          I also turn 61 in December and have been on the registry for about 12 years. I am going to consider a donation each year on my birthday to honor my nephew who passed from Leukemia at age 5, he would have been 19 this year.

  2. Anne says:

    I believe 63 is the age limit. I am 60 as well, turning 61 in Jan. I was a possible donor once but then heard no more so hopefully a better match was found.

  3. jibril says:

    That was why I joined the registry because of patients like him, am also of African decent and hope that sometime I might be able to help a patient like him, especially in this particular case.

  4. Christine says:

    Amazing story! Thank you so much for seeing a need and initiating the creation of infrastructure to fill this need around the world! I wish you much life for the years ahead so you can be happy and continue to help others.

  5. Courtney says:

    Hopefully I am the match, would love to help!

  6. Alyssa says:

    What an amazing story. As a biracial individual (black/white) I hope that I can help people like him who have less of a chance of finding a match due to their African decent. I do what I can to spread the word about becoming a donor.

  7. Hastry Herrera says:

    If there’s Blood!!!!
    There’s Hope!!!
    Be Strong you’re not alone! !!
    Soon somebody will give you the Hope
    That you are looking for! !! I wish I willl be more that just a Support! !!!

  8. Torrie A. Richardson says:

    I would love to help if I meet the needs. I am already registered and I’m just waiting to be contacted.

  9. Elie Chemaly says:

    I am registered. let me know

  10. Terry says:

    17 years ago I was an anonymous donor. After a year we could exchange contact information, I found out my recipient is African American. I am Caucasian. So being a match can cross racial lines! My recipient is healthy today!

  11. Jackie says:

    Like some of the others that responded, I am 60 (turned in April). I realize that I come off of the registry next April, but would sure love to be able to help someone before then! God Bless you Seun!!

  12. Mygdalia Castillo says:

    I am turning 40 in 3 days. I would love to be a match and help him.

  13. Tom Parlon says:

    Hello,
    I am 43, if I’m a match or can help out please let me know
    Tom

  14. Maria says:

    What a wonderful & inspiring story. Seun, what a beautiful soul you have!

  15. Belinda says:

    I became a donor after my husband needed a bone marrow transplant, having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to receive the transplant. I am turning 60 next year, but I hope I can help someone before I’m removed from the registry.

    And to those researching for a cure: Keep working! We desperately need a cure for this horrible disease called cancer. Thanks to all who have generously given so that others can live.

  16. Rikti Smart says:

    Hi I registered myself as a donar I would like to find out if I can donate bone marrow but I don’t know how

  17. Debbie Flaig says:

    I am a registered donor but have not been asked yet to donate. I would love to help someone.

  18. Gayle Haynes says:

    I’ve been registered for over 30 years and have never been contacted.

  19. Alex Fisher says:

    Like so many others, I hope to be able to donate before aging out (in 6 years). In the meantime, there are other ways to help: Spread the word on Facebook and other social media; host a signup, especially at colleges and universities where the pool is younger; donate money to Be the Match if you are able. Each one of us is committed to donation should we be called, and that is admirable! Let’s remember to think outside the box. ❤️

  20. Laura Ayerst says:

    What a wonderful inspiration you are, Seun – and you continue to keep on giving back! Best of everything to you on your continued journey – I’Il be looking for you in the Olympics!

    To BtM: I donated cord blood with our last 2 children, and really wish there was a way to better publicize this option, both to expectant parents and to hospitals. I’m also surprised to hear there’s a donor age limit. Why is that, and what can be done to help extend that (like another contributor said) if those over 61 are healthy and willing? I would love to help see that changed.

  21. Janett Arnold says:

    I’m an African American and it’s difficult to get others to sign up.I’m hoping I’ll get that call one day!! I’m willing and waiting.I’very been on the registry about thirty three years. I have about five years left. You’re an inspiration Seun!!

  22. Kim says:

    I am but 53, so I have a few more years in which I could possibly be a match for someone in need. I noticed that there seemingly are a lot of older volunteers. That is fantastic, but we need to appeal to a younger crowd, because when we all age out, we need to have replacement volunteers.

  23. Leigh Rollag says:

    I’ve been on the registry for about 28 years and have never been contacted to be a donor. I’m now encouraging my adult kids to register. When my last child was born 16 years ago, I was told the hospital didn’t have the ability to store the blood (umbilical), so I could not donate it. Things might have changed by now, but how can I help to push for this change so that hospitals more hospitals can store it?

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