It started with a routine blood test after a bout of pneumonia.
But since finding two rare bone marrow conditions, the family of 11year-old Jonathan Barnes has been campaigning to shore up the list of potential marrow donors, and to keep local blood banks stocked.
Without finding a bone marrow donor who will match Jonathan's criteria, the Anmore youngster will likely end up with leukemia. Despite the frightening prospect, Jonathan and his family are meeting the challenge with poise.
"He knows he has a condition called myelodysplasia. He knows that he needs to have a bone marrow transplant," said Mariam Barnes, Jonathan's mother.
"He knows he will get cancer if he doesn't have the transplant. But in the way that children are always so wonderfully unique, he's not fazed by that."
While finding an exact match is extremely difficult, getting on the donor list is easier than most people might think, Barnes said.
"A lot of people don't do it because they think it's involving needles but the beginning step is just a mouth swab. It comes to you in the post and you post it back, and they put you on the register," she said.
"What we didn't know and what I don't think many people know, is that they're desperately short of young male donors . There's 19 million people on the transplant register across the world, but only 10 per cent of those are the groups that they need - ethnically diverse young men."
It would be easier to find a match for the family if they could use donated stem cells from umbilical chords, but that procedure won't be available in Canada until next year and the Barnes don't have that much time, she said.
"We're just praying and hoping that someone, somewhere in the world, will put forward a match that will fit with Jonathan."
Once a suitable donor is found, Jonathan's marrow will be destroyed by chemotherapy and radiation, taking away his body's ability to produce blood on its own.
While the donated marrow goes to work, Jonathan will have to have daily transfusions.
"I'm probably going to be taking a lot of blood out of the bank and we need blood for others," Jonathan told The NOW. "Just try to help others live."
And it could be quite a while before he is producing enough blood on his own.
"That could go on for a few weeks. It could go on for a few months. It could go on for a year or longer, depending on how long it takes Jonathan's bone marrow to kick start itself with the new transplanted material," Barnes said.
"We feel it's an important thing to give back."
The family helped organize a blood drive last week that saw 30 residents come out to donate.
"Although it doesn't sound like a lot of people, it's another 30 or 50 units of blood that would go towards potentially saving people," Barnes said.
"One couple came and said, 'How could we not come? We have a 10year-old son.' It was very touching."
To apply for the marrow register, visit www.onematch.ca. To learn about blood donation, see www.blood.ca.