Tara Janas & Family Face Challenge of Bone Marrow Transplant


Frederique Vermeij, Staff Writer, Journalism I

It’s been a long time since senior Tara Janas has been with her friends. 

While Covid-19 has made socializing difficult for everyone, the Janas family faced an additional challenge in March when five-year-old Neil started his battle with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). 

Diagnosed, Neil started month-long chemotherapy treatments. After three cycles, doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant to provide him with the best chance for a permanent, long-term remission.

Doctors tested the cells of Tara and Nik, Neil’s brother, for HLA markers. Tara was a 100% match with Neil, meaning she could donate her bone marrow to him.

On August 14 Tara went into the hospital where doctors extracted her bone marrow, and a few hours later it was given to Neil through IV.

Tara encourages everyone to register as a bone marrow donor since 70% of people who need bone marrow transplants do not find a match in their family and have to look for a match on a national registry.

Due to the lack of volunteers, many patients are not be able to find an HLA match through the registry.

On Friday, September 25, friends and neighbors welcomed Neil home from his longest 53-day hospital stay with a fire truck blaring its sirens, horses, decorations, balloons and signs.

Because Neil is immunocompromised Tara and her family must remain under strict quarantine and can only leave the house for Neil’s doctor’s appointments in Milwaukee.

They can’t go to stores and therefore have to get everything delivered to their house. In addition, they have to wipe everything down before bringing it inside.

Another thing they have to be careful with is food being cooked to the proper temperature, and Neil can’t eat any leftovers.

“Having to remain in quarantine seems like such a simple sacrifice compared to all the treatments my brother is going through right now,” said the senior.

The hardest part about this all, according to  Tara, was that due to Covid-19, Neil could not have any visitors but his parents during his treatment and did not see Tara for 53 days.

Tara said her brother inspires her everyday with his strength and perseverance, This, in turn, encourages her to do the same.

“Nothing I have to do seems difficult when I think of what he has gone through, and I see what he is still going through.” 

Neil’s illness also inspired Tara to take an online college biology course on cancer to learn more about how cancer affects the body and the current treatments for it.

“Overall, Tara has been nothing less of a trooper during this situation. She’s endured the craziness that has been adjusting to virtual school full throttle,” said Tara’s friend Jennifer Ai, also a senior.

Neil will need the next year to recover completely from the transplant.