By IAN MCBRIDE
John Divo has been battling opposing teams on hockey rinks for many years, but he has faced a much more difficult challenge since being diagnosed with leukemia.
The 20-year-old Baden man, who was taking the electrical training program at Conestoga College, was first told he had cancer on Dec. 23, 2013.
This past fall, Divo was feeling well and was prepared to play in his last season of junior hockey with the Kitchener Dutchmen. However, those plans were put on hold when he relapsed in November.
He is now on the priority list for a life-saving stem cell transplant. Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into any cell present in the bloodstream: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other blood components. So far there have been five OneMatch clinics held throughout Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Baden. OneMatch is a stem cell and marrow network operated by Canadian Blood Services. Over 500 people were swabbed, but no matching donors have been found yet.
Divo’s father, John Sr., is optimistic that a donor will be found.
“We’re very optimistic. We just have to believe in the system, and there’s 22 million people in the registry right now ,” he said.
Despite the fatigue from the cancer treatments, Divo still tries to maintain his daily routines.
“The No. 1 thing I try and make sure I do is I don’t stray from what I do on a normal basis,” he said. “I’m coaching peewee triple A, and trying to stay on the ice, because hockey’s something I love to do. I try and keep my life as normal as possible.”
He also talked about the turnout at the most recent clinic.
“The turnout was amazing! The community really came together as a whole,” he said.
His father had a message for people who are eligible to be donors.
“Definitely come and do the swab if you’re between the ages of 17 and 35, male or female,” he said.