Fighting Cancer One Cheek Swab at a Time - - ABC13

Fighting Cancer One Cheek Swab at a Time

Dave Kilmer Dave Kilmer

Wintergreen, VA - A Roanoke area man is using his illness to help others.

Dave Kilmer, a ski instructor at Wintergreen, is battling two rare blood diseases and has been doing so for more than four years.

Now, he's teaching others how a simple cheek swab can save a life.

Dave Kilmer was diagnosed with a rare form of flood cancer called refractory anemia. He's completely dependent on blood transfusions to keep him alive, but now, his options have run out.

Dave Kilmer remembers the day he was told he would die.

"The doctor came in, I was with my wife, and he looked us in the eye and said you don't have a donor," said Dave Kilmer.

Dave's wife Susan was numb with disbelief.

"That you need this life-saving bone-marrow surgery, you're gonna die without it and there's no match," said Susan Kilmer.

Then, reality started to sink in. Out of 10 million people on a national bone marrow registry, none matched Dave.

"And I said 'I don't have a donor. He said no, I said are there any other options, he said no,'" said Dave Kilmer.

But Dave wouldn't accept that answer; neither could his wife.

"I almost cried my eyes out in the doctor's office. I almost did, but I just looked at him, he looked at me and we said, 'we can be strong, we can do this,'" said Susan Kilmer.

The day doctors told him he would die, he started fighting for his life.

"This is not taking me out, there's no way, no way," said Dave Kilmer.

Dave's friends at Wintergreen starting planning. They set up a drive on Saturday and Sunday to find Dave a donor.

"At that point it got very urgent because we thought it may not have a donor at all and it would go downhill very quickly," said Susanne Ebling, ski instructor at Wintergreen.

Now, things are starting to look up. Dave has a few prospects that might match him. He's showing others that something as simple as a cheek swab could save a life.

"(I just think) what if some little kid in some hospital somewhere is going to benefit from today's effort?" said Dave Kilmer.

More than 70 people signed up at Wintergreen to be on the bone marrow transplant list. 

But there's still a desperate need for more bone marrow donors across the country. If you'd like to learn more go here:
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