By Liana Jacob
MEET the man whose brother saved his life by providing bone marrow when he was diagnosed with stage four leukaemia and then went on to have two children despite doctors warning he may never conceive.
In December 2001, real estate agent, Harry Page (35), from New Jersey, USA, was just 19-years-old when he began experiencing unexplained symptoms of weakness in his muscles, extreme fatigue, severe back pain and drastic weight loss.
In August 2002, the pain got so bad that he went to the hospital; the first two times he went to the hospital, doctors misdiagnosed him with an inflammation of the heart and acid reflux.
The third time he went back to a different doctor who admitted he didn’t know what was wrong but did blood tests on him. Over the next two days, Harry couldn’t sleep and was crying from the pain.
He reluctantly went back to the doctor due to the unbearable pain, and was admitted to a travelling oncologist physician agent, who took a look at his blood work and urged that he needed emergency attention and suggested he may have leukaemia.
That night he had to get a blood transfusion and the next day he had a bone marrow biopsy where they extract blood from the bone marrow. Initially they narrowed his diagnosis down to worst case of mono, hepatitis A, B or C, AIDS, HIV or leukaemia.
A few days later the doctor told him he had acute myelogenous leukaemia (stage four); the most aggressive form of leukaemia; a cancer of the white blood cells.
Following two rounds of chemotherapy, he was in remission and his older brother, Ryan, turned out to be a stem cell donor match. In October 2002, Ryan was put on an IV drip and in November, Harry had the transplant. Within the next week, Harry prayed and was delighted to discover that his white blood cell count was working normally again.
Despite losing his brother on New Year’s Eve in 2006 while he was in university and finding out he may never be able to conceive naturally, in 2009, Harry was overwhelmed to discover his girlfriend at the time was pregnant with their first ‘miracle child’, Ryan Julia Page (nine-years-old) who he named after his brother.
“I was a very selfish and self-centred kid, I didn’t realise it at the time how big of a deal it was for him to go through all that pain to be donor,” Harry said.
“He was very easy going, very forgiving, whereas I was the complete opposite. Before he died, our relationship was so much better, he donated his stem cells without hesitation, he was happy to do it.
“I always felt that my brother didn’t love me as much as my younger brother. But the truth is, my brother did love me, I just made it harder for him to love me.
“My daughter, Ryan Julia, has known from an early age about my brother. When she was younger, she told me she had dreams about him.
“I wasn’t surprised as we believe that people can come to you in your dreams. She knows the significance of it and how much my brother means to me.
“Over the summer in April 2002, I started to get night sweats, back pain, and chest pain. I started to lose weight and lose strength in the gym and was very pale.
“Then I met an oncologist physician who travelled around to different hospitals. She looked at my blood work and told my parents I needed to be transferred immediately where my test results will take an hour not days.
“She told my parents that she thought I had leukaemia and she was right. After being transferred to a hospital in New Brunswick New Jersey Robert Wood Johnson they did a bone marrow biopsy and I had AML leukaemia.
“I started chemotherapy immediately and received three different rounds. The first round wasn’t too bad, and I went into remission.
“The second round got higher. The last round is the highest dose of chemo that you can receive and only receive if you’re having a bone marrow transplant.
“After I received my third round it completely wiped my bone marrow out and my older brother donated his stem cells to me. His stem cells took over and created a new bone marrow and my blood type changed.
“I came off all my medications in less than six months and I am the poster child for the hospital I was at. I truly believe that my faith in God and staying positive no matter what is the reason I’m still alive.”
Acute leukaemia means it progresses rapidly and aggressively, and usually requires urgent treatment. It is classified according to the type of white blood cells affected.
The two main types of white blood cells are: lymphocytes (mostly used to fight viral infections) and myeloid cells; they perform various different functions, such as fighting bacterial infections, defending the body against parasites and preventing the spread of tissue damage.
Symptoms of AML include; pale skin, tiredness, breathlessness, frequent infections and unusual and frequent bleeding which develop over a few weeks and become increasingly more severe over time.
“Even when my friends come and see me, they can’t believe how happy I was. Cancer has changed my life for the better and changed my whole outlook on things,” Harry said.
“I now wake up and I’m grateful that I’m alive. I visit my family members and tell them how much I love them. I also spend time with friends and realise that there is no promised tomorrow and to live every day to the fullest.
“Today I have a beautiful family with two miracle kids after having my transplant. I also have a stepson who I consider my own.
“I eventually want to end up just doing motivational speaking around the world. But I am truly grateful just to wake up each morning and have breath in my lungs by the gift of God.”