Thirty-one year old Rayville, LA resident Billy Bennett is a regular guy. He’s “Dad” to two little girls, he hunts, he likes to fish, but his normal life is on hold right now. On October 27, Billy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia or AML. Now, he’s fighting for his life while he waits to find his matching donor.
Billy Bennett with his daughter.
“I had been tired, I should have known something was wrong because I’m a welder and I was getting winded just welding. I really wasn’t that worried; I’m not one to go to the doctor. I don’t even have a family doctor, but when my leg started getting red spots all over and swelling I went in to have it looked at. It started at my ankle and went upward to my thigh. My leg was about two times the normal size and it felt like an extension cord under my skin, shares Bennett.
A local doctor did routine lab work to try to diagnose the problems he was having. “My white cell count was 436,000,” he said. Normal range is typically between 4,000 and 10,000. “The nurses couldn’t believe I looked as good as I did" continued Bennett.
His doctor diagnosed him with blood cancer. “It didn’t sink in. Everyone else took it worse than me, and I was just trying to be cool. When I think about dying, it gets real. I’ve never had any health problems, no surgeries, when (leukemia) hit, it hit quick!”
Billy Bennett was immediately sent to LSU’s Feist-Weiller Cancer Center in Shreveport, La. “The day they diagnosed me, I was admitted into the hospital and was there for 32 days,” he said of his treatment that started with blood transfusions and chemotherapy. “So far I’ve had about 14 or 15 units of blood and platelets, and I expect to be given more blood when I go in for chemo next week.”
Doctors have told Billy that he will need a stem cell transplant from a matching donor to save his life. Seventy percent of patients who need a stem cell transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. This is the case for Billy, none of his family members are a match. Billy and thousands of patients nationwide are relying on Be The Match to help them find a matching unrelated donor to save their life.
“Finding my donor would mean the world to me. I mean everything. I want to go back to work and provide for my family and right now, I’m not healthy enough to do that,” says Bennett.
When asked what he would say to people about registering with Be The Match, Billy said, “Before you say no, think that it could be you or your family. Until you’re in this position, you don’t think it could be you. I never thought it’d happen to me. It’s just a mouth swab starting off, there’s no blood or needles and it could save someone’s life.”
UPDATE: Billy Bennett received a transplant from a matching donor on September 19th. He is still receiving care in New Orleans. Billy has had some good days and bad days, but overall is doing well!