According to the City of Hope, every four minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer, often derived from MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome).
More often than not, a bone marrow transplant is the key to survival. The chances of a multiracial patient finding a match can be as low as one in four and less than three percent of donors self-identify as mixed race.
This is an issue that Executive Producer and Long Island native, Amanda Ramirez, believes is not addressed often enough in communities of color. “Medically speaking, there are certain issues that need to be addressed within certain communities,” said Ramirez who is Panamanian and Puerto Rican. “A lot of people in the Latin community don’t bother getting tested. I don’t know if it’s a stigma. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing. It’s just not something that’s very normal.”
When minorities and those who are more than one race do not get tested to see if they’re a match to someone with cancer, there’s a lower chance that a person of color will have access to an available donor.
Ramirez knows this all too well. Her father, who was of Puerto Rican descent, passed away due to complications from colorectal cancer at the age of 66. He developed acute aplastic anemia, a form of MDS. After she also began struggling physically, she went to see her doctor.
Fortunately, she was cancer-free, but in the midst of her research, she discovered a movie that was in the works and was eager to jump on board.
The movie, “My First Miracle” directed by Rodolfo Luna, centers around a 16-year-old girl Angelica, played by Katya Martín, who is Latino and white and is battling cancer. She falls for a boy named Sean, played by Juan Castano, who is of Columbian descent and he helps her through her sickness in a way that she never saw coming. We follow Angelica and her parents through their struggles to stay strong and Angelica’s relationships with Sean and a young boy named Tommy played by Elijah Jacob, who also has cancer and is biracial.
The movie was funded by baseball six-time all-star Kenny Lofton and stars Quinton Aaron from “The Blind Side,” Sean Patrick Flanery, Valerie Cruz and Jason London.
The goal of the movie is to encourage people to get tested to see if they are a match with anyone in need of a bone marrow transplant and to promote diversity in the film industry.
“I want people to take up the mantle if they’re comfortable and get tested,” said Ramirez. “It doesn’t hurt to see if you’re a match. If your number gets called, you are saving a life. It’s the closest thing to giving birth if you’ve never done it.”