KILLEEN, Texas — A 9-year-old boy from Killeen diagnosed with leukemia needs your help. On Saturday, June 18, a Marrow Match Drive is being held in hopes to find him a bone marrow match.
MJ Dixon is on the list to receive a bone marrow transplant, but chances are low right now that he'll be able to find a donor.
He was diagnosed with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia on February 25.
"Overall my world just crashed that day. I didn’t have anything. Couldn’t think about anything else. Didn’t know what to think didn’t know what to feel," MJ's mother Chaundra Dixon said.
A few weeks prior, her son was complaining of leg pain.
"I took him to the doctor and had a well-child check-up and they said it was growing pains," Dixon said.
MJ became sick again and had to be rushed to the hospital. Dixon would later find out it was cancer in her son's bone marrow.
"It has been a nightmare. I don't wish this on anybody. We are in the hospital more than anything," Dixon said.
Dixon has had to stay home from work to care for MJ fulltime as a single mother.
"I withdrew out of my TSP my retirement plan to kind of stretch us over to make sure all bills are paid, mortgages are paid, and just keeping everything up to par like that," Dixon said.
Dixon said her bright, energetic boy has changed. Now, MJ is always tired. The chemotherapy and blood transfusions are taking their toll. And the sickness is keeping MJ from seeing his favorite people.
"I can't play with my friends and I always love doing subjects with my teachers," MJ Dixon said.
In the midst of treatment, MJ managed to finish his school work and completed the third grade.
A bone marrow transplant could get MJ on the road to normalcy, but it's going to be harder because MJ is Black. His donor needs to be Black.
"Ethnicity definitely matters. And it will matter for all of us because we are most likely to match somebody with our ethnic heritage," Tressa Malone, community engagement specialist with Be The Match said.
According to Be the Match, a Black person has a 23% chance of being matched. That's much lower than Whites at 77% and American Indian of Alaska Natives at 57%.
"Unfortunately there are not as many black or African American people that have joined the registry," Malone explained.
Malone said Be The Match is focused on getting people age 18-35 to sign up for the registry because doctors say young donors are better for the recipients.
"The younger stem cells make for more successful transplants and that's the bottom line and we want MJ to only go through this once," Malone said.
However, the organization will accept donors through the age of 44.
Dixon hopes getting the word out about becoming a donor makes a difference for both her son and the thousands of other kids on the list.
"If you look at that registry list it's a lot a Black babies on there. They are going to die if they don't get a match, if they don't get a bone marrow. But we have to step up. It has to start somewhere," Dixon said.
It's easy to sign up to be a donor. Just text the word MJ to 61474 You'll be sent a cheek swab kit to send off. And you'll be contacted if you are a match for MJ or anyone else on the list.
Chaundra Dixon has also started a few fundraisers to help cover medical expenses. You can donate through GoFundme, buy an MJ strong T-shirt, or buy a $10 raffle ticket for a chance of a $100 gift card. Message Chaundra on the MJ's Facebook page to coordinate.