Lincoln firefighter needs match for marrow transplant

October 03, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Billy Cheek's life has become a daunting game of numbers: $795 a month for leukemia medication and nurse visits; 40 percent normal heart function; 23,000 new adult Leukemia cases a year; $0 in Medicaid help.

Cheek is fighting an aggressive form of leukemia, now in remission, that has left him one option for complete recovery - a bone marrow transplant could help restore the volunteer fireman to his former self.

But a matching donor must be found first.

Cheek's four siblings were ruled out as possible bone marrow matches and now the family is turning to the community for help saving their brother's life.

A bone marrow testing drive is being sponsored by the Kentucky Blood Center on Cheek family's behalf. Members of the community are being asked to take a simple bone marrow test to see if their type matches Cheek's. The drive will be held from 2-7 p.m. Friday at the Stanford Baptist Christian Life Center.


The tests, which can cost thousands of dollars, are being offered free through the Blood Center, provided volunteers agree to be listed on a national bone marrow registry and donate a pint of blood.

Finding a marrow match is Cheek's greatest hope for survival and the more people who have their marrow tested, the better the chance of finding a match, said his sister, Mary Warmouth.

"People just don't know," she said. "Somewhere out there is a match for him. Someone holds the key to his survival. There is someone out there."

Seeing members of the community and fellow volunteers at the Highland fire station, where he has donated his time for four years, pull together "makes you feel pretty good," Cheek said.

Diagnosed in February

It has been a long time since Cheek has felt good. He was diagnosed with leukemia in February, five days after his second wedding anniversary.

"He just got sick, all of the sudden, so we were overwhelmed," Warmouth said .

Cheek, his wife Christy and their two children now live with the Warmouths and their own pair of teens in a one-bathroom house near the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.

The family has always been close, said Warmouth, but after sharing a single bathroom with eight people, space in the house "gets tight sometimes."

But lack of space is the least of the family's concerns. Of the five chemotherapy sessions Cheek has been through, the first and third shut down his kidneys, and the second and fourth damaged his heart. By the fifth, which swelled his brain and liver, the doctors called the treatments to halt.

But an additional, stronger, dose of chemo is still needed to clear out the leukemic cells in her husband's blood before a marrow transplant can be done, said Christy Cheek.

Sometimes, you just have to trust in prayer and "put it in God's hands, and he'll take care of it," said Cheek's mother Sandra Cheek.

The Cheek children, both under the age of 10, are also struggling with the disease's impact. "The little girl just keeps saying she doesn't want her daddy to die," Sandra Cheek said.

Sandra Cheek said that if a donor for her son is found, it will be "giving him a second chance at life."

"God will reward them for what they do," she said.

Central Kentucky News Articles