Cancer survivor celebrates ‘new found freedom’

Baylor Nihei Fredrickson. photo by Shari Nihei Fredrickson

Baylor Nihei Fredrickson. photo by Shari Nihei Fredrickson

Earlier this month, 10-year-old Baylor Nihei Fredrickson’s family received some long-anticipated news: the cancer survivor learned that he could discontinue taking his medications and no longer had to follow numerous multiple safety precautions that had been part of his life since he returned home from a transplant more than a year and a half ago.

Back in 2014, Baylor was taking more than 15 medications, his mother Shari Nihei Fredrickson previously told the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Baylor’s journey to wellness has been a long and tumultuous one since he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in February 2012 at age 5. He went through four rounds of chemotherapy and was discharged from the hospital in August 2012, but relapsed in April 2014. Baylor underwent a cord blood stem cell transplant in July 30 of that same year. After it failed, he had a transplant Sept. 23, 2014, with his father, Rob Fredrickson, serving as the donor.

Baylor returned home from the hospital Oct. 31, 2014.

Since then, Baylor, whose cancer is in remission, has attended numerous out-patient appointments and follow multiple safety measures, including wearing masks and a full body of sunscreen while outside, avoid crowds or sick people and follow a special diet while his body rebuilt its immune system, his mother previously told the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Upon receiving the results of some blood work earlier this month, his bone marrow transplant team decided that he no longer needed to be on medication, and no longer needed to follow various precautions, a July 5 post on the AMatch4Bay Facebook page stated.

Baylor and his family are still getting used to the new “normal” these days. “We are still trying to adjust to our new found freedom. All of Baylor’s precautions and limitations were a part of our everyday lifestyle. I still find myself pausing before opening a window in the car to make sure he has his mask on or realizing he can actually go somewhere not isolated like the market or out for ice cream,” Nihei Fredrickson said in an e-mail.

“However, I think the best part of all is he can enjoy going outside without judgement or ridicule. People can be very cruel to someone that doesn’t look the same as themselves. Parents would move their children away from him for fear of the mask or other children would fixate on him and then turning to their parents as we walked by asking, ‘why does that kid have a mask on?’ For anybody, especially a sensitive child, this can be extremely difficult. Bay has developed very thick skin and a deep compassion for others through this process,” Nihei Fredrickson said of her son, who is of Japanese and German descent.

Looking ahead, Baylor is eager to visit an amusement park in the near future, his mother said. In the meanwhile, he will continue to go to his bone marrow transplant clinic for appointments.

This fall, Baylor will return to school in the Bay Area as a fifth grader.

“It’s been an extremely long process. If Baylor would have found a better transplant match this process would have probably taken a lot less time. I would still like to urge people of all races and backgrounds to get tested to become a bone marrow donor. The test is free and very easy. The amount of Asians and mixed-Asians on the list are extremely low,” Nihei Fredrickson said.

“We have had Caucasian friends needing bone marrow donors and each time they have had multiple matches (some even perfect matches) because the very high numbers of Caucasian donors on the national bone marrow donor list. Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing for everyone to have that opportunity at a healthy new life? Please, go to AADP.org to find a bone marrow drive near you or order a free home kit.”

The Asian American Donor Program, a nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness of the “potential stem cells donors for patients with life threatening diseases curable by a stem cell transplant,” has been by Baylor’s side through much of the ordeal.

Carol Gillespie, the nonprofit’s executive director, said, “AADP has been on this very long journey with Baylor and his family, setting up registration drives, shooting video, encouraging others to register, volunteer, support the cause and help support other families that are following in Baylor’s footsteps. We are so excited that this day of freedom has come to Baylor and his family.”

To follow Baylor’s progress, visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/amatchforbay/.

The Asian American Donor Program will hold a bone marrow registry drive at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco’s Ginza Bazaar Saturday, July 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. at 1881 Pine St. in San Francisco’s Japantown. For more information on how to register as a bone marrow donor, visit http://www.aadp.org/learn/how-to-register or call (510) 568-3700.

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