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Family, friends search for miracle match for man with bone marrow cancer

Published: Saturday, April 6 2013 9:00 a.m. MDT

Lori Eskelson and her husband, Farley Eskelson, talk about the search for the perfect match for Farley, who was recently diagnosed with primary myelofibrosis, a rare form of bone marrow cancer. They are holding a bone marrow testing drive on April 14 between 4:30 and 8:30 at 5450 S. Holladay Blvd. in Holladay.

Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News

HOLLADAY — Farley Eskelson is in an uncomfortable position. He is asking for help from strangers who could save his life.

Eskelson has myelofibrosis, a serious bone marrow disorder that disrupts a person's blood cell production. A bone marrow transplant is the only treatment that has the potential to cure him, but no one in his family is a match.

“Through Christmas I had a tremendous amount of pain through my left rib and right at the point of my left shoulder,” said Eskelson, describing the symptoms that interrupted a life that included snowmobiling and working on the family ranch.

Blood tests revealed Eskelson's white cell count was 62,000 — far above the normal 3,500 to 10,500 white blood cells per microliter, according to the Mayo Clinic website. “He said you either have lymphoma or leukemia,” Eskelson said.

He saw a cancer specialist, who diagnosed him with primary myelofibrosis eight weeks ago. The disorder can lead to severe anemia, weakness, fatigue, and often an enlarged spleen and liver.

“I had a 26-centimeter spleen, and that’s what was referring the pain to my left rib and referring it to my shoulder,” Eskelson said. A normal spleen is 11 centimeters.

That doctor referred him to Dr. Josef Prchal at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Prchal specializes in cancerous disorders of the bone marrow. He put Eskelson on Jakafi, a drug that helps shrink the enlarged spleen and reduces symptoms associated with myelofibrosis.

Within two weeks, Eskelson said his spleen started to shrink, “which gave me more room to eat and be more comfortable, gave me more energy.”

The drug has helped him. “Instead of every day being a tough day, (now) every day is a better day,” he said. But the drug doesn’t take care of the problem. He needs a bone marrow transplant.

He has two older sisters, but neither are a match. He went to the bone marrow bank at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, but unfortunately, “I am 1 in 100,000 or 1 in 200,000. I am the 20 percent that is hard to find a match, instead of 80 percent that’s easy,” he said.

Time is not on his side because his condition could develop into acute myelogenous leukemia, a type of blood and bone marrow cancer that progresses rapidly.

"I can get through this, and I'll be better for it,” he said, “but it is hard. It's hard to ask for help."

The Eskelsons are people of faith. Many have offered support and prayers."The amazing love we've been surrounded with, that is very touching,” his wife, Lori, said.

His family and friends are hoping to find his miracle match. They are holding a “Be the Match” bone marrow testing drive Sunday, April 14 at their LDS meetinghouse at 5450 S. Holladay Blvd. in Holladay. Representatives from the National Donor Registry will be there to help with the drive held between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Those who can’t attend can have a kit sent to them from www.marrow.org.

“I just appreciate the help,” he said, getting emotional.

“We never thought we would be in this situation,” his wife said in a shaky voice. “We never thought we’d be right in the middle of this battle of trying to find a donor for Farley.”

There are no pokes or sticks during the testing drive, just a swab of the cheek. If a potential match is found, then that person will be called and asked to have some blood drawn.

“We are hoping to find that one who is willing to help us and pursuing it a little further for us,” she said.

Even if they don’t find a match for him, they hope it will help someone who has bone marrow that is hard to match.

“So everybody who can join can save a life,” he said.

E-mail: cmikita@deseretnews.com, vvo-duc@ksl.com

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