“Try to imagine living a normal life, and having healthy kids and all the sudden one day you get told your child has cancer and the only way they’re going to be able to live, the only one treatment that is going to let them live, is to have a bone marrow transplant,” Traci Launsby, mother of now 16-year-old Kobe Dicus, said.

According to his mother, Kobe was diagnosed with leukemia on June 5, 2013, when he was just 14 years old. After several rounds of chemotherapy Kobe’s bone marrow was permanently damaged, so he needed a bone marrow transplant, a procedure that would also help kill any leukemic cells left in his body.

In that same summer of 2013 Nick Magyar, a Keene State College senior, received a phone call that he was a match to be a bone marrow donor for a young male with leukemia, and without ever knowing who Kobe was, he agreed to undergo a surgical procedure to donate his bone marrow.

“If [Magyar] hadn’t have done that for Kobe, there’s a possibility that there would have been another donor, but it probably wouldn’t have been as good of a match…He saved his life and if it weren’t for him, who knows what would have happened,” Launsby said.


His mother said Kobe was always a nice kid who was into gaming, history, football and telling jokes.

She said, “He would always say ‘Hey mom guess what?’ and I would be stupid and say ‘What’ and he would say ‘Haha, chicken butt!”

But when Kobe was 14 years old he started getting severe stomach aches accompanied by vomiting, explained Launsby. After several doctor’s visits she said she thought Kobe had a problem in his bowels which surgery would cure.

She explained, “We thought ‘Oh they’re going to go in, he’ll have surgery and he’s going to be fine and [we can] move on with our normal lives.”

However, during a doctor visit the doctors realized his blood count was alarmingly low, and what they thought was just a digestive problem was actually much larger bigger.

June 5, 2013, was the day they found out Kobe had acute myeloid leukemia with mysodysplasia related features.

“We heard the word ‘cancer’ and it was new to us. We had no idea what type of a battle he was in for,” Launsby explained.

The next day they drove ninety minutes to University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, according to Launsby, and Kobe started the first of four rounds of chemotherapy he would face.

“He had to have four different rounds of chemotherapy, which was nine days of three different chemo drugs every day all day long,” she explained. He was in chemotherapy June, July and August of that summer and again in October. During that time she said Kobe only got to spend a few days at home.

“His immune system would get knocked down to nothing, he would have no white blood cells,

Contributed Photo / Nick Magyar

Contributed Photo / Nick Magyar

no platelets and any type of diseases and germs would be really bad for him to be around, if he got a bloody nose it would be really hard to stop the bleeding,” Launsby explained. She said Kobe never had the chance to be a “real teenager” because of cancer.

“Every day he was getting so many pokes and prods, tubes stuck down his nose, he got a lot of different types of infections and he actually ended up almost dying,” she explained.

While Kobe was trying to recover from August’s round of chemotherapy, he developed an infection that he wasn’t physically strong enough to fight.

The infection got to the point where he had to be put on life support for two weeks.

“That was the hardest part of this whole journey, seeing him like that, not be able to talk or respond or move,” Launsby explained.

“Right when they [put someone on a ventilator] they’re still kind of with it and gagging and choking and puking up blood and you think ‘That that’s it, they’re just going to die,’” she said.

She explained, “When we didn’t know if he was going to end up living I just wished I could hear that joking again, I would give anything for him to say ‘Hey mom guess what?’” Fortunately, Kobe fought through those two weeks of being on a ventilator, and after further health complications he had his last round of chemotherapy in October. Although Kobe has been in remission since July, 2013, Launsby said she isn’t 100 percent sure why he had to continue chemotherapy, but she said she believes it was because they wanted to make sure they killed every leukemic cell in his body, so they could continue with the bone marrow transplant.  Jack Kirkland, the communications associate at Delete Blood Cancer [DKMS] explained that bone marrow transplants aren’t only for those who have leukemia, but everything under the umbrella of blood cancer can be treated as well as almost any autoimmune blood disorder that could be treated with the renewal of the immune system such as anemia, myelofibrosis or myofibralgia.

Launsby said, “On November 6, 2013, Kobe got his bone marrow transplant, which [Magyar] so graciously and selflessly, amazingly donated for my son even though he had no idea who he was”


Magyar, who is a KSC senior graduating with a double major in Elementary Education and Economics and a minor in Spanish, said he has been on the bone marrow donor registry since he was 18.

He explained that a family friend had a six-month-old baby who had leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant, so he swabbed his check to see if he was a match, but unfortunately wasn’t.

“Three years later I forgot about being on the registry and I got a phone call from DKMS, the organization that is the middle man who matches you with the recipient, and I was coming out of work when I got the call, it was around noon time, and they said I was a match for a fourteen-year-old boy with leukemia,” he explained.

“I thought it was a joke at first and so I called the number back,” he said.  But it wasn’t a joke. Magyar said he didn’t automatically say yes but said he needed to talk to his parents. “[The] biggest con is that, well, people think bone marrow donation and they think it’s really painful… I was nervous about that,” he explained. “The pro, my mom and dad both said, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, people go their whole lives and don’t save someone else’s life.”

“Obviously I had to go through with it,” he said, “A big reason I had to do it was because he was going to die in a few months if I didn’t do it, and he was only fourteen years old at the time. I’m a basketball trainer during the summer time and the kids I work out and coach are right around that age so it put it in perspective for me, so I knew I had to go through with it.”

After he got the call in August of 2013 Magyar agreed to donate bone marrow to someone he had never met by means of surgery. He had to visit several doctors, get tests done and donate blood to himself in case something were to happen during surgery.

Kirkland explained DKMS is the donor center that worked with Magyar throughout this process. “We proactively register and educate donors and take care of donors we have registered through our database,” he said. He explained that when someone in their registry is a match for a patient, it is the one who calls the donor, works with the donor,  facilitates all their necessary actions up to the day of transplant and stays in contact with donor after the donation.

He also explained it covers all costs such as gas, hotel and meal expenses the donor has during their hospital visits. 

“We’re already asking you to do something amazing…so we need to make sure we don’t put the financial burden on any of our donors,” Kirkland explained.

On Nov 1, 2013, Magyar went in for his surgery.

He explained that bone marrow transplants can either be done through surgical or blood transfusion, but Kobe needed it by means of the surgical procedure, so Magyar didn’t have an option.

Kirkland explained that 20 to 25 percent of bone marrow extractions are done through pelvic bone marrow extraction that Maygar had, and 75 to 80 percent are done through peripheral blood stem cell donation, which is just like a four to eight hour blood donation where they remove the excess stem cells. Kirkland said that for younger patients the surgical procedure is almost always necessary.

Magyar explained surgeons drilled in through the bone outside of the spine on both sides to get to the liquid marrow. They went in and out of his three incision sites 70 times each.

“After the surgery I couldn’t do any physical activity for a month, walking was hard, right after I was nauseous, had to lay in bed, woozy and I wasn’t myself,” he said. However, he said it wasn’t as painful or scary as everyone made it out to be. After a week Magyar said he could walk just fine and after a month he could play basketball again.

Regarding the long term effects of the surgery, Magyar said the only thing that changed was his outlook on life.

“I know that sounds cliche, but now I realize how precious life is…knowing I was able to help this kid…and [it’s amazing] knowing that he was just able to celebrate his sixteenth birthday,” Magyar said.


“Now,” Launsby explained, “Kobe is one hundred percent donor, so you can never say ‘Kobe will never have cancer again,’ but this is a really, really good thing that he is one hundred percent [Magyar].’”

She also explained that doctors were impressed that Kobe didn’t have more immediate complications with the transplant, as many recipients do. However, Launsby said Kobe has gotten better, and is still cancer-free but he now has a form of graft-versus-host-disease, which is common in recipients of bone marrow transplants. This makes it hard for Kobe to eat or swallow, a problem they are still currently facing a year after the transplant. “It’s good because… that means you know that the transplant took and it’s working, [but the] bad part is that this is one of the complications,” she explained. She explained that Magyar was the perfect match for Kobe’s transplant. With any other donor they would have been faced with many more complications.

Magyar explained, “The doctors told me, ‘You’re going to have a twin, you’re obviously not going to look alike but everything inside of him is you,’ like he’s allergic to almonds now and red dye, so now he has my allergies.”

Lausby said Kobe is back to his old self but is a lot different at the same time.

“He’s been through more than a lot of people will ever go through in their lifetime and he did this all in a matter of seven months. He’s smarter, wiser, kind and stupid little things that would bother most people don’t bother him,” she explained.

A year and four months after their procedures, Magyar and Kobe got in contact with one another.

“We didn’t have a choice about contacting [Magyar]– I always wanted to meet him and [he] was the perfect match for Kobe…but we just found out who he was in March,” Launsby said.

Launsby said she was so anxious to thank Magyar she called him as soon as she got the chance.

Magyar said, “The phone call when [Kobe’s] mom first contacted me, she was crying and I didn’t know what to say, when someone says ‘Thank you for saving my son’s life’ you don’t know what to say….I was at a loss for words.”

Kirkland explained that DKMS has rules about donor/patient contact and if the donor and patient are both from the U.S. they have to wait a year before being allowed to contact one another.

“This is also in order to protect not just the patient, but the donor emotionally. We don’t want someone who donated reaching out and six months later the patient passes away… the emotional weight that can carry for a donor is just too much,” Kirkland explained.

“It’s safe to say the majority of people that do this, like ninety-nine percent, want to speak to their patient or their donor,” he explained.

He said it is common for patients and donors to meet in person, spend holidays together and create traditions together. Kirkland said he has heard countless stories of patients and donors becoming big parts of each other’s lives because of the positive impact the donor has had on a patient’s life.

Now, Magyar said he talks to Launsby and Kobe almost every day.

“I was just talking to him yesterday, we text all the time me and Kobe… it was kind of hard at first for him, which is understandable, he’s just sixteen years old…We try to keep it like we’re friends, he’s into video games so I try to talk to him about that even though I’m not up to date on the best games out there. He talks to me about school and simple things, we’re just trying to learn about each other,” Magyar said.

Launsby said she felt like she already knew Magyar the first time she talked to him because he had such a big impact on her life.

“I feel like he’s part of our family, I feel like he’s my kid too,I know that sounds strange,” she said. “Like the other day I just called him and I said ‘I know this is going to sound weird but I love you.”


Magyar, Launsby and Kobe plan on meeting in the summer.

Launsby also said she hopes Kobe will be back to school in the fall, for his junior year of high school, even though he missed much of his first two years.

She said he also hopes to get a job at GameStop and his drivers license in the coming months.

Magyar said if he was to be a match for someone else, he would definitely do it again and recommends that others join the registry.

“You should go on the registry because you could save someone’s life, that’s the biggest thing, and if you do get selected you should go through with it because you’re not just saving that one person’s life, you’re saving their entire family’s life too,” he explained.

He continued, “I don’t think enough people know, especially our age, and I don’t think they understand the effect that just being swabbed and being on the registry could have on someone’s life.”

Kirkland said they want to get as many people on the registry as possible, but money is also a concern for DKMS because they don’t change people to register and DKMS pays for the donor’s expenses.

Kirkland said, “How do we get the money for this? Frantically. By asking everyone and anyone for donations.”

He said they have private and corporate donors from around the world, host fundraisers and ask for online donations.

“Regardless that we may be concerned about covering the costs, our bottom line is everyone who wants to register should register. If we have to face the problem of having one million Americans register this year and be like ‘Great, now we have to come up with sixty-five-million dollars,’ we’ll handle that. We’ll find a way, we’ll do something. We want people on the registry because thats going to save more lives,” Kirkland explained.

He explained anyone who wants to register can go to deletebloodcancer.org and sign up for free or donate money to the cause. Kirkland said, “They send you a kit directly to your address for free, you do a cheek swab yourself and then you can send it back.”

Taylor Thomas can be contacted at tthomas@kscequinox.com

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