Cure for Cameron: Lapeer County man awaits lung, stem cell transplant

LAPEER COUNTY (WJRT) (7/23/2019) - Most 29 year olds are just starting out and looking forward to a long, bright future.

But Cameron Schrader of Lapeer County man is preparing for the fight of his life. He is suffering from the very rare Duncan disease, which he was diagnosed with at 7 years old.

Before that, he was like any other young boy.

"I went to school just like any other kid and played sports," he said. "I was actually really active."

Then he learned he was actually 1 in 5 million people to have Duncan disease, which wipes out the body's immune system.

"He happened to be jumping on a trampoline and my mom thought he had possibly broken a rib," said his mom, Kristy Howard. "We took him into the doctor and he had a small quarter size spot on his lung. That journey started a whirlwind."

Duncan disease, also known as XLP, wipes out the immune system altogether.

"My body doesn't produce antibodies to help fight infection. It can cause me to get other diseases that can be potentially fatal," said Cameron.

X-linked Lymphoproliferative disease is almost exclusively found in males, but the genetic disease is passed on by females. Both Cameron and his younger brother Tyler were born with the condition, but it affected them differently.

"Tyler's condition wasn't as severe as Cameron's," said Kristy. "Cameron immediately started with IVFG transfusions, which is immunoglobulins and he would receive those every four weeks."

Treatments and procedures have only increased for Cameron, making life as a normal 29-year-old impossible.

"I pretty much am stuck at home now," said Cameron. "Just getting off the couch and doing daily tasks in the house is really difficult."

Luckily, Cameron has Ashley -- his longtime girlfriend who is there with him through thick and thin.

"My mom or his friends come over to sit with him during the day, then I come home at night and I kind of help him get the tube feeding set up and get his medications ready," she said. "I think the time that we've spent together has really shown that this is the person I'm supposed to be with, so the sickness doesn't scare me."

While the XLP has taken its toll on Cameron's body, he still has beaten the odds. According to the National Library of Medicine, most diagnosed don't survive into adulthood.

"He doesn't want people to look at him as hopeless. He's got so much heart and drive," said Krsity.

Part of that drive is his brother, Tyler, who lost his battle with the disease just over a year ago at just 22 years old.

"I feel so guilty because I passed it to him, but I was unable to save him," said Kristy. "But I also know that Tyler would not want me to lay down and die, same with Cameron. Tyler is saying fight. Fight, fight, fight."

While doctors in Michigan are unable to perform the necessary double lung transplant due to the XLP, a doctor nearly 400 miles away in Pittsburgh is offering a live-saving opportunity.

"His doctor has found a potential doctor in Pittsburgh that is willing to take Cameron's case through a clinical trial," Kristy said.

The clinical trial would not only give Cameron a new set of lungs, but a stem cell transplant that would target the XLP.

"The stem cell comes into play which would be the cure. So he would have new lungs and a new zest for life with this stem cell," Kristy said.

Despite living in Lapeer County his whole life, Cameron knows moving to Pittsburgh is his only option.

"The move aspect of moving everybody, I was a little hesitant, but I try to look at it as a positive thing," said Cameron.

The procedure is not only high risk, but comes with a big price tag.

"A normal transplant runs anywhere from $100,000 to $700,000. Currently with his insurance he's going to be responsible for 20 percent of that," said Kristy.

So now, they're calling on the community to help find a cure for Cameron.

"Cure for Cameron is a benefit that we are putting on, it's August 10th at Sidetracks here in Lapeer," Kristy said. "We are hoping that we can generate enough monetary donations to prepare him to move, get an apartment and help pay for his medical care."

Medical care that Cameron needs to survive.

"Everything is more than what we can do, financially we cant reach what we need to reach without the help of our community," said his girlfriend, Ashley. "It's out of our hands now and its a life of death situation at this point."

While the words "life and death" haunt Kristy every day, she's not done fighting for her son. Because she says even in death Tyler won't let her give up.

"He's with Cameron every day," said Kristy. "I know that he's the one that's given me the strength to get through and wake up every morning and go on everyday to find this cure."

You can help find a Cure for Cameron through their August benefit or through their GoFundMe account.

Until his miracle is granted. Cameron will just keep going and taking life one breath at a time.