DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – James Chippendale has faced one of the toughest obstacles in life – cancer.
His diagnosis caught him off guard, but motivated him to live with a purpose.
He says life used to be all about living on the edge. “I never thought about what’s going to happen tomorrow, I was really enjoying myself.”
Chippendale started his own entertainment insurance company at 24. He says he was living the high life all over the world. “It was all about what can I take from this world…it was all about me.”
Seven years later, his fast-paced world came to a sudden stop. “I never in a million years thought that I was going to get the news that I actually got.”
After being sick for several months, he went to the doctor and was shocked to learn his diagnosis – advanced leukemia. “In one second, I go from living the high life thinking the world is just there for me to go have fun to guess what you’re going to start chemotherapy tomorrow, and guess what you have leukemia.”
Chippendale’s doctor said his only hope of beating cancer would be a bone marrow transplant. Finding a match proved to be a difficult task. After months of donor drives and testing, he couldn’t find a match anywhere in the country.
“It was a lot of frustration in that time period not being able to find a match.”
Eight months went by before James got the call, a match was found in Germany, living outside of Berlin.
“I’ll never forget it was that moment knowing that wow, this guy in Germany selflessly donated his bone marrow and saved my life. “
James has now traveled to Germany many times to see his donor, a man named Klaus. The two now share an incredible bond. “It was just like family. It was instant like long lost family.”
And now, they’re even more like family. “His son named his son after me. So, Klaus’ grandson is now Hanis James Kaiser.”
After the successful transplant, James wanted to give something back. He began the Love-Hope-Strength Foundation to raise awareness and money for the international bone marrow registry.
“We’ve added 20,000 new donors to the international marrow registry.”
Priscilla Van Bevers with the bone marrow transplant team at Baylor University Medical Center says the key to the registry is saving lives. “To give of your time and of your body to a stranger that can be anywhere in the world. It takes a remarkable type of person.”
There has been a stigma surrounding marrow donation for years. It was once thought to be a painful process, keeping many potential donors away. With advances in technology, that is no longer the case. “Just about 60% of all donations right now are donated similar to a blood donation,” says Van Bevers.
“People don’t know how easy it is to get on the registry, one, or how easy it is now to donate,” says Chippendale, who is now sharing that message on the silver screen.
His story is featured in a new documentary called More to Live For. The film follows the lives of three men in search of a bone marrow donor. “Every time we show the film, we’re going to do a bone marrow drive after the screening.”
The hope is that through the film more donors will sign up, and more lives will be saved. Chippendale says the ‘high life’ now has a different definition. “Whatever the definition of high life is, I’m living it, and I’m living it because I have a purpose.”