With this documentary I want to tell my story, the story of a child who was confronted with cancer at the age of 14 and only narrowly survived thanks to an anonymous stem cell donor. This event has left deep marks in my life. I have become a completely different person and I sometimes wonder about what life would have been like if I had not received such a blow in my adolescence. Could I have played baseball at a high level? Could I have had children? Would I have had a different career?
To this day, almost 20 years later, I don't know who the donor is or where this person is from. I don't know what led this person to do this for a child he will never know or see. Would that donor still think about me and wonder how I am doing? Would he or she like to hear from me?
On the one hand this documentary is about the search for the donor and on the other hand about the impact that the battle with leukemia has had on my further life and the person that I became.
As part of this film, I will be talking to GZ psychologist Eline Aukema, head of the Ingeborg Douwes Center, an expertise center in the field of psycho-oncology. Together with her I dive into a dark period of my life that I have long hidden away.
I ask for help from Bert Elberse of the Matchis foundation, which links donors to patients internationally, to search the paper trail that can lead me to the donor at an unknown destination somewhere in the world.
Also I asked Dr. Marc Bierings to be involved in this project. He's a pediatrician and hemato-oncologist at the Princess Maxima Center in Utrecht and my attending physician from 20 years ago. At that time he just started as a Doctor and together we will go back in time to talk about this difficult period in my life. Furthermore we'll delve into my medical records to try to find any lead that could bring me closer to finding my anonymous donor.
For my brothers, my parents and my grandparents it was also a traumatic experience. Based on their memories of me, both before and after the treatment, we get a better picture of the young Jelmar.
You can never completely shake the idea that life can be over just like that and makes you very grateful for every day that you wake up healthy. My dream is to show with this documentary how grateful I am that someone did this for me and how it shaped my life. When I could meet my donor the circle would be complete and I could close this chapter of my life. By sharing my story I hope to make as many people as possible aware of the possibility of becoming a stem cell donor. It's a small effort but you can literally save a human life, how beautiful is that?
Dit project is (mede) mogelijk gemaakt door het AFK (Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst).