Cancer survivor Baylor Nihei Fredrickson is college-bound

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Baylor Nihei Fredrickson

At 10 years old, Baylor Nihei Fredrickson had already gone through several rounds of chemotherapy, recovered from numerous infections, had many blood transfusions and two transplants, the second of which saved his life.

Now, nearly 10 years later, he is a healthy teenager who likes to work out in the mornings as he prepares to graduate from Albany High School this year.

“I am feeling ready for what the future has for me,” said Baylor, who has yet to decide which university to attend. The Richmond, Calif. resident has mixed feelings about leaving his long-time friends to go to college. “(My friends have) seen me at my best and worst.”

He certainly had a tough childhood. Since being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at eight years old, his early childhood years were filled with doctors appointments, spending months at a time in the hospital or recovering at home with many safety precautions in place.

“There was a time during his journey when he would be winded going up our front steps (four steps),” Baylor’s mother, Shari Nihei Fredrickson, remembers.

Because Baylor is of Japanese and German descent, he had a difficult time finding a bone marrow donor match. After his cord blood stem cell transplant failed, test results determined that his father, Rob, was the best match between his parents for a haploidentical transplant for Baylor.

After the second transplant operation, Baylor continued to fight through medical complications like graft-versus-host disease, where “my old cells were fighting with my dad’s cells.” He only remembers a few details from his tough journey now.

“I had to go through a lot of different procedures,” he said. “I had to get immunized three times. I remember I would get four shots by four nurses at the same time.”

Despite all that he went through, Baylor said aspects of his cancer experience positively impacted him.

“I definitely feel it made me interact with a lot of adults at a very early age,” he said. “The doctors and, particularly, the nurses were my friends. It made me a more confident person.”

Shari Nihei Fredrickson said it has been “a real joy” to watch her son grow up since his recovery. In addition to his academic growth, Baylor has been on the track team for three years and has been the captain of his school’s spirit team for the last two years.

 

“He’s had to work really hard to get to where he is today,” she said. “Baylor’s dad and I are beyond proud of the person he is today.”

A soon-to-be college student who plans to major in business administration, Baylor encourages people to register with Be the Match (now called the National Marrow Donor Program, or NMDP), which received thousands of new bone marrow donor registrants during his many registry campaigns as a child. New donors are always needed, according to Baylor, especially due to the low number registrants from Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and from those of mixed-race ancestry like Baylor.

“First off, I would like to just thank everyone for supporting me through the years,” Baylor said. “If you signed up to be a potential donor or asked someone to sign up, thank you. I was so young when I went through all of it, I did not even completely understand what was going on. I got very lucky because my father was my donor. A lot of people do not have that option. If you haven’t already, I would like to ask you to sign up with (NMDP).”

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