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DENVER (CBS4) – A Colorado National Guardsman who is dedicated to serving his country is now calling on others for help.
Staff Sgt. Mark Jenkins needs a bone marrow transplant but he can’t find a match, so as time runs out he’s speaking out and hoping people will hear him and help.
“We have a tremendous question mark in our lives,” Mark said.
“I am worried; everyday,” Mark’s wife Darlene said.
Mark is a full-time soldier with the Colorado Army National Guard. He’s also a leukemia patient. It started with a rare blood disorder that evolved into a rare blood cancer. He’s anxious about how it will end.
“When you’re 40 it’s pretty shocking to hear someone tell you that you have five to 10 years to live,” Mark said. “The only cure is a bone marrow transplant.”
The search for a donor began in September, but four months later there is still no match.
“I was just told, ‘We’re sorry.’ And I sat in my car and I cried,” Mark said.
The problem may be the donor pool. People with diverse racial or ethnic heritage make up just 28 percent of the Be The Match Registry, with African-Americans making up just seven percent.
“So basically if you’re African-American and you’re looking for a match it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Jessica Maitland with the Bonfils Blood Center said.
The Jenkins’ want people to know it just takes a cheek swab to sign up, and donating bone marrow can often be as simple as giving blood.
“I believe the match is out there and I’m trying to reach that person,” Darlene said.
Meanwhile, Mark has been trying drug after drug to control his cancer.
“You can save a life. It’s just as simple as that; you can save a life,” Mark said.
The Jenkins are planning a community bone marrow drive for April 14 at the Off Broadway Cafe, but anyone can have their cheek swabbed at any Bonfils Blood Center. Visit the Bonfils Blood Center website to find out more information.