Project Michelle

This post has little to do with Buddhism, except that Michelle Maykin is a temple kid. She participates in Thai dance at the Berkeley Thai Temple. She also has acute myeloid leukemia.

Michelle MaykingFor a couple years now I’ve been aware of Project Michelle through various emails in the Vietnamese American community. Michelle is an incredible 27-year old who was diagnosed with AML in February 2007. Her amazing husband Van set aside grad school and started Project Michelle to find a bone marrow match. Through Wat Mongkolratanaram’s facebook group, I was recently alerted to the news that Michelle had relapsed after her cord blood stem cell transplant.

This was a reminder for me to sign up for the National Marrow Donor Registry, something I haven’t yet done.

I always assumed that, not being of the same ethnic background, I simply wouldn’t be able to help Michelle. It’s true that my marrow can’t help her, but watching the video below showed me that even though Michelle hasn’t yet found her donor match, her and Van’s work has found matches for at least two other cancer patients. We can still save a life, even if it’s not the life we intend to save. We can extend their work by publicizing this issue on our blogs and in our communities (especially in the Buddhist community). After all, Michelle and Van have already saved the lives of two — imagine what we can do if the whole community joins them.

Michelle’s case is more dire than your average American with AML. White patients have a 90% chance of finding a positive marrow donor match, but due to the small number of Asians in the Donor Registry, patients like Michelle are facing a steep uphill battle to find an exact match for a transplant. And if you happen to be of mixed race descent, the makeup of the current Registry sets your chances at almost zero.

For all you folk, especially the handful of Asians and hapas out there who read this blog, please sign up to join the Registry. Be the match! Who knows, you might even be the one who saves Michelle’s life! To learn more about Project Michelle, you can visit and watch the video below:

The following clip from the Asian American dance group Kaba Modern highlights the importance for Asian Americans to donate to the Registry.