Eddie Copete is not just a familiar face at Shreveport’s East Ridge Country Club, he has taught hundreds of students in his 30 years there as a tennis pro.
Eddie was born Colombia and moved to the United States to play tennis for Mississippi State University in 1974. After college, he lived a few different places before settling down in Shreveport, La. “This is a wonderful area,” says Eddie about his community.
Between his regular exercise schedule, playing and teaching tennis, Eddie has always tried to stay active and healthy, so it came as a shock to him when he was diagnosed with cancer. In December 2013, Eddie developed a large swollen mass on his thigh that doctors determined to be small cell lymphoma.
Thinking back about his diagnosis, Eddie said “The first time they told me that word; I was like ‘No. What?’ Oh my gosh. It was tough, but the first diagnosis, the doctor told me this type of cancer is slow, nothing to worry about, it’s not going to kill you.” With a smile on his face, Eddie says he remembers leaving that office relieved and determined. “You don’t want to hear that word ever, but my faith is strong, and I know where I’m going to end up. I’m a positive person. I don’t worry. I was like--hey, I’m going to beat this thing.”
His initial treatment started with radiation and chemotherapy, with PET scans to monitor the progress. “After chemo, they have you come back in the following Monday to test your blood to see how well your body has handled the treatment. One week I had chemo and that whole Friday, Saturday and Sunday I was on the couch. When I came in on Monday, the doctor said your numbers are really low, you need a blood transfusion.” Eddie said he was in shock. He never needed blood before and he asked his doctor “Do we need to?” His doctor reassured him it was very common and it would make him feel better. “The next day I felt a LOT better. It was amazing” says Eddie.
Doctors were able to get his cancer into remission, until March 2015 when he found a mass on his shoulder. “I had heard that word already, so I knew what to expect, said Eddie. When the biopsy came back, he learned that his cancer had transformed into large cell lymphoma. “This one can get you,” his doctor warned, and treatment was started right away.
Eddie continued his chemotherapy regimen, but his doctor told him he would need a stem cell transplant. Originally, his doctor was considering using his own stem cells in a procedure called an autologous transplant, but have since decided he needs to receive cells from someone else.
Typically, the siblings of a patient are tested to see if they are a match to donate stem cells, however 70% of patients who need a transplant will not have a matching sibling. One of Eddie’s siblings wasn’t medically able to be tested and the other seven are not a match. “I’m surprised that at this point I don’t have a match, but it is what it is,” says Eddie. “At this point we are trying desperately find a donor!”
Most people aren’t aware of the Be The Match Registry®, until they have a loved one that needs help. “I was pretty ignorant about this before this happened to me,” says Eddie. “Now that I’m aware, this is a simple thing to do. You are literally saving someone’s life. It is a very significant thing,” he continued.
Registering to see if you could be a match for a patient like Eddie is simple. You must meet the donor requirements, fill out a consent form and swab the inside of your cheek. Patients typically find their match from someone of the same race and similar ancestry to them. Because of this, Eddie would particularly like to encourage the Columbian and Latino communities to register. “If you can, why not save someone’s life?”