Stem cell donor and family visit all the way from Wales

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Milton and Adele Becker of Slave Lake had guests the past couple of weeks all way from the west of Wales, in the U.K. The Williams family arrived on a cold rainy day that reminded them of home. Their visit included a tour of the mountain parks and badlands with the Beckers before flying home a few days ago.

What’s the connection?

“He saved my life!” says Milton.

That is what happened. Back in 2010 Milton was diagnosed with two types of leukemia. The prognosis wasn’t good, and although staff at the Cross Cancer Clinic were able to keep him alive with blood transfusions, that couldn’t go on indefinitely.

“They put me on the list for a bone marrow transplant,” he says. “But there aren’t many people on it.”

At about the same time, carpenter Emyr Williams of Lampeter Wales was donating blood and the Welsh Blood Service asked him if he’d like to also donate bone marrow.

“I said sure,” he says.

It turned out the two men were a close match.

“I got a call in November or December of 2012,” says Milton.

On Emyr’s side, it was a fairly simple process, that came down to some of his blood being removed, stem cells being separated from it and set aside. Those were flown to the Foothills Hospital, where Milton says he had been “beefed up” in preparation for the operation. With him it was a do-or-die scenario, which involved “killing all the immune system,” preparatory to setting him up with a new batch of stem cells. Long story short – it worked!

That was in 2013. Milton and Emyr commenced a relationship via letters and phone calls, that turned into a friendship. It culminated in the Beckers flying Emyr, his wife Rhian and their youngest child Elain over for a visit. The plan was after a stop in Slave Lake to visit Jasper and Banff and then Calgary to meet the folks at the Foothills. Thence to Drumheller and back to Nisku.

Asked for first impressions of Alberta, Rhian, says, “Big!” to which Emyr adds, “roads very straight and lots of trucks.” It’s their first time in Canada.

Milton and Adele were having a family get-together at their cabin with their guests before heading out to the mountains. This story appears just about the time the Beckers will be returning from their tour with the Williams family.

Milton Becker of Slave Lake, front right, next to Emyr Williams of Wales, whose bone marrow donation saved Milton’s life. Standing, left to right, are Rhian Williams, Elain Williams and Adele Becker.

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