Jemuel McDaniel and Emilyann Dawson were planners. The former Red Bluff High School students took jobs at McDonald's in an economy when those where among the only jobs available.
But they had their sights on the future, and looked forward to securing better jobs and eventually getting on their feet financially. Then they could afford a wedding to be proud of, complete with nice rings and a fancy reception.
Jemuel even had an interview scheduled for a promising job. Things were looking up for the young couple.
But Jemuel never made it to that interview. He'd recently been feeling so exhausted that the 25-year-old former Shasta College student could hardly climb a flight of stairs without needing to lie down and sleep. Plus, his skin had inexplicable bruises, and small speckles.
Jemuel thought he had the flu.
He's a tough guy. Doctors say he must be, because on Feb. 21, the same day Jemuel drove himself to the doctor's office, his platelet levels were around 5 - normal is more than 100 - so low that a more fragile person would have fallen into a coma.
That's the day Jemuel learned that he didn't have the flu, but leukemia. Specifically, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), an acute cancer of the blood cells that progresses so rapidly that it can be fatal within weeks if not treated. By Feb. 28 Jemuel had been at Mercy Medical Center in Redding a week, and was going to be transferred to UCSF as an emergency admittance that evening.
Coincidentally, the day before the diagnosis Emilyann and Jemuel had been talking about marriage. Suddenly, with Jamuel having AML, life and their future hung in the balance. It no longer made sense to wait for that "perfect" time and set of circumstances.
With the help of friends and family, especially Jemuel's sister, Charity, the couple's wedding went from idea to "I do" in about two hours. The couple said their vows in Mercy Medical Center's chapel, promising to love and honor one another, in good times and bad.
In sickness and health.
Jemuel, the handsome red-haired groom, wore a black top hat, black vest, jacket and jeans. Emilyann, the beautiful brunette bride, wore a sleeveless white dress, and carried flowers. Emilyann sat on Jemuel's lap, as he sat in a wheelchair, for their wedding reception photos in the hospital cafeteria.
Within a few hours, Jemuel and Emilyann were flown to UCSF so Jemuel could begin immediate treatment. That's where he's been for one month, getting transfusions, and tests and chemotherapy that's caused his red hair to disappear. He's now preparing for a possible bone marrow transplant. In a perfect world one of his three sisters will beat the 25-percent odds and be a match. If none is a match, then doctors will have to search for a donor outside the family.
Their insurance is still pending. Meanwhile, costs are mounting each day as expenses climb for travel between Red Bluff and San Francisco, and the loss of work, and expensive procedures not covered by insurance, such as fertility-preservation measures taken before Jemuel began chemo, to salvage any chance for the couple to one day have children.
If a bone marrow donor is found, doctors would like to do the transplant in May, after which Jemuel will be in the hospital up to four months. Recovery after that - assuming the bone marrow transplant is a success - will take more than a year.
Emilyann, Jemuel's new bride, will be his caretaker.
Emilyann said that even with all Jemuel's endured, she marvels at how his core personality - well-liked, full of life, great sense of humor, someone who'd help anyone in need - "just an amazing guy" comes through. Emilyann said that as soon as the shock wore off after Jemuel got his diagnosis, she would have expected him to fall into depression, or self-pity.
"He immediately jumped to the thought of raising (leukemia) awareness," she said. "He started thinking of ways he could get the word out about leukemia, and making sure if you have signs and symptoms, getting checked out before it's too late, because it almost was too late for him."
Emilyann describes her husband as very active; a natural leader, someone who remains calm in stressful situations. He's strong and selfless, a real fighter. He cracks jokes to keep everyone else's spirits up, even when he's feeling like crap.
"He has looked at cancer as an enemy, and he WILL take it down," Emilyann said. "He said to one of the nurses one day, 'There is barely room for me, you and my ego to fit in this room, I don't know what cancer is doing rudely thinking it has a place here, pretty soon, it WILL get the hint and kick rocks!' "
How to help:
Fundraiser: 11 a.m., Sat. March 30 at R&R Quality Meats & Seafood, 2159 East Street, Redding. Cost is $6 per plate, and includes a full meal. Chicken, and other food options will be available, too. The event will last until the food is gone.
Contribute to the Jemuel McDaniel Medical Fund at any US Bank location.
Be a bone marrow donor. A simple swab test on the inside of the cheek can determine if you are Jemuel's possible life-saving match. Healthy people ages 18 through 44 are eligible to be bone marron donors. Click here to register with the National Marrow Donor Program to see if you're a match and could save a life. You can get information on how to send away for a kit.
Vist Jamel's Facebook pageto keep up with his progress, at Jemuel's Battle With Leukemia.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.