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Elk Grove Man Battles Cancer, Urges Others to Give Fellow Patients a Fighting Chance

Ahmeer Rivac has a competitive will. He’s a big fan of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts. His spirited attitude has been known to be on display during his workouts at Capital City Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. But now the 33-year-old has harnessed his energy for a battle against Stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Rivac’s fighting spirit will give others a fighting chance, when he serves as the face and the voice to the upcoming blood and marrow drive that takes place June 10 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Sutter Cancer Center, 2800 L St., Classrooms 1-4, in Sacramento. The event is sponsored by BloodSource and Sutter Cancer Center.

“Although those who donate may not directly help me, it will definitely help someone like me,” he said.

Rivac’s ethnic background is Filipino, which like many minorities has a disproportionately low representation on the Be The Match Registry®. This makes finding a match difficult for unrelated allogeneic transplants (i.e., using cells from someone other than the patient), which is what he needed to help recover. Fortunately, after Sutter Cancer Center’s staff scoured the registry for a match, they found one. He underwent his transplant on May 6 at Sutter General Hospital under the watchful eye of Sutter Medical Group blood and marrow transplant specialist, Michael Carroll, M.D. Rivac said in the hospital for a few weeks, giving his body the chance to get stronger and adjust to the transplant. He was discharged last week and has been doing remarkably well.

Rivac’s initial diagnosis came in August 2009 after he went to see his Sutter Medical Group family medicine physician, Scott Cannon, M.D., about a lump on his neck and a persistent cough. His physician ordered a CT scan of his chest and some blood work, and upon receiving the results, called Rivac at work with the news: he had cancer. Rivac was then referred to Dr. Carroll. Dr. Carroll began Rivac on chemotherapy to prepare him for his first transplant, known as an autologous transplant, where a patient donates his/her own bone marrow or stem cells prior to treatment for reinfusion later after high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation.

After treatment, Rivac was in remission until December of 2010. It was then while working out that the eerily familiar cough returned. He sat out a few rounds – his head telling him that it was probably just a cold, but his heart urging him to visit Dr. Carroll again. Dr. Carroll confirmed what Rivac had feared: his cancer had returned. This time, Dr. Carroll suggested an allogeneic transplant. When his two brothers were ruled out as donors, they turned to the Be The Match Registry®.

“Dr. Carroll and his team, which includes the staff at the infusion center, Patti, my BMT nurse and Jamie, my social worker, have been awesome and there with me every step of the way,” he said. “When I found out that I had to go through this again for a second time I was happy to know that they would be all there again to help me through it.”

Rivac has all the support of his loving wife of three years, Leilani, his beautiful two-year-old daughter, Maddon, as well as numerous other close family members and friends – including his buddies at the gym.

“They played a huge role mentally and physically in my recovery when I was in remission and have shown tremendous support upon hearing about my news that I had cancer for a second time,” he said. “They even created a Cancer Fighter wristband for me in support of my fight, which they all wear until I return to the mats.”

Sutter Cancer Center does more than treat a disease. We care for people living with cancer and strive to meet their physical, mental and emotional needs. Through comprehensive programs and services, we support our patients and those who care for them. For more information, visit www.suttercancer.org.

For information about marrow registry, please call BloodSource at 866-822-5663, visit www.bloodsource.org or www.bethematch.org.

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CONTACT: Liz Madison
916-454-6825 (desk)
916-396-5156 (cell)

 

Disclosure: Miranda Marsalla is a Communications Intern for Sutter Health

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