8-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Meets Donor That Saved His Life

A year after the bone marrow transplant, an 8-year-old cancer survivor finally meets his donor.

Joseph was only six years old when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2019. His mother, Ashley Montanez, said that her world stopped and could not process it. It is the worst feeling, she said, to know that your one baby has cancer and there is nothing that you can do to help other than be there for him.

Cancer did not go into remission even after chemotherapy

After undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy, Joseph's condition did not respond to the treatment. The doctors then told them that the boy needs a bone marrow transplant. Montanez recalls feeling devastated seeing her child going through what he had gone through yet still uncertain for how long or if he has to keep fighting. 

The City of Hope, Cancer Treatment, and Research Center did find a match. "We were excited," she told TODAY. She could not believe they would find a donor so soon, but they had no idea who the donor was. 

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It was 18 years ago when Vanessa Flores, 43, signed up to be a donor at a company blood drive. It was so long ago that she has forgotten about it, TODAY noted. That was until she got a call and letter from the bone marrow registry, Be The Match, on March 11, 2019.

After everything was explained to her, she immediately gave her consent. They then told that her would-be recipient was a child, but she would not know that it was a boy until about two weeks before the actual donation. She said she had no idea that Joseph was so young because she initially thought he was about nine years old.

The heartwarming moment when they finally met

After the transplant, Flores said that he wanted to meet the boy and hug him. The procedure went well, and Joseph has fully recovered and is now eight years old. After a year, Joseph and Vanessa have finally met last Friday, October 16, 2020, via Zoom. The event was part of the yearly City of Hope's Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion. Due to the pandemic, the event was held virtually.

Montanez said the Joseph loved talking to Vanessa, who is also a mom to three children. Joseph thanked her for the "good blood." "You're my angel," he told Vanessa. 'Throughout this year, I've had on my mind the most," Vanessa told Ashley, "because I can imagine how hard that was."

"I am so grateful to you," Ashley replied. "I've got no idea it was that long since you got swabbed." She added, "If I could, I would love to give you a hug."

Vanessa said that Joseph is the real hero because he is the one who had gone through it all. "Thank you," Joseph said.

Someday, Joseph and his family would like to meet Vanessa, who lives in New Mexico, in person.

You can watch their heartwarming reunion here.

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