San Rafael Pacifics baseball team rallies around teen with leukemia

A Marin County teenager in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, is getting help from his hometown baseball team. 

The San Rafael Pacifics will hold a "Donor for Daniel" event at Albert Park during the team's 6  p.m. game on Saturday.

Daniel Rose, 15, has been diagnosed with a very rare, and particularly stubborn, form of leukemia. 
Before and during the game, a booth next to the ballpark will register anyone who wants to be in the national registry of potential donors. 

The screening process is painless, free, and only takes a few minutes with a swab on the inner cheek. 

"I have blood cancer, leukemia, that's what we found out," Daniel told KTVU, describing the shock of his diagnosis in January. 

Daniel and his mother, Kathryn, returned from a winter break ski trip, and thought he had picked up a flu bug. 

But when the high fever and headaches persisted, Daniel's pediatrician sent him to the hospital, and a blood work-up revealed what was wrong. 

Not just leukemia, but a rarely seen form of leukemia that is also resistant to chemotherapy. 

When genetic testing confirmed it, Daniel's chemotherapy was cut short, and immune therapy was later attempted. 

The infusion of altered cells, so-called warrior cells, did help suppress the leukemia, but now those benefits have worn off.

Daniel is in remission and urgently needs a bone marrow transplant, before the cancer takes hold again.

"He's in remission so the doctors want to push as fast as possible to new bone marrow," explained Kathryn.

"So that my cancer cells don't start producing again, because we have this window of time," added Daniel.

At home in San Rafael's Sun Valley neighborhood, Daniel's friends come and go, playing video games and keeping him up to date. 

He was unable to finish his sophomore year at Marin Catholic High School, because of illness and his susceptibility to infection. 

He had been keeping up with classwork with a tutor, and hopes if he can have the transplant procedure this summer, and recover during the fall, he might be able to rejoin his classmates by the end of 2019. 

"Technically the odds that I get this particular cancer, out of the general populace, are one in 8.5 million," said Daniel, speaking as the math and science honors student he is.

He admits he misses school -- a lot. 

"Friends have been an extreme help getting me through this, because it always helps to have someone to talk to."  

Danny will throw out the first pitch at Saturday's game, assisted by his cousin, Barry James Casey, a recent University of Texas All-American baseball player. The game might draw between 400 and 700 fans.  

"It really does take a community to fight this, lots of prayers and support are needed," said San Rafael Pacifics President Gabriel Suarez. "From what we hear, Daniel is a fighter so can't wait to meet him and help him through this."

Many Pacifics players say they plan to participate in the donor drive. 

"It's a good cause, and if you have the opportunity to help someone, you should," said outfielder Axel Johnson.

"Especially with something this rare, and a match that's hard to find."

Through all the tests and treatments, Danny has managed a positive attitude, more concerned about his mom's well-being than his own.

"We really do take it day by day," said Kathryn, as her son draped one arm over her shoulder with a squeeze. "You pray for strength to get through that day, and hope the next day's better, but each day ends and you're still here." 

Every year, about 20,000 Americans need bone marrow transplants, and about half, like Danny, do not find a match within their family, and turn to the national registry. 

To help without attending the Pacifics game, anyone can click here to have a cheek swab kit mailed out.The transplant itself is not nearly as intrusive as in the past, and in many cases, rather than extract marrow from bones, it can be accomplished as a blood draw, performed on an outpatient basis, in less than a day.     

The Roses hope, as they search for a match, that donors are found for others in need as well. 

And Daniel is grateful to his community for so much support. 

"I would have never known how much people care until this happened," he said, "so it's a blessing and a curse in a way."