Ever since Earl Young won his battle against leukemia, the U.S. Olympic track and field gold medalist has hit the ground running. His mission is simple: To give more blood cancer patients the second chance at life that he was so grateful to receive.
On September 16, 2011, Earl, then 70 years old, learned he suffered from an aggressive form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.
“They said I had three months to live if nothing was done,” he explained. “Two very defining times in my life were winning the gold medal in Rome in 1960, and getting a cancer diagnosis in a doctor’s office in 2011.”
Fortunately, a matching donor was located, and in January 2012, Earl received a transplant that cured his disease.
One day, a woman in Germany decided that she would save a life if she was given the opportunity,” said Earl. “When I thanked her for my life, her words were simple. She said ‘It was the right thing to do.’ She was not trying to understate. Rather she was saying ‘It is the right thing for one human to do for another.’
Since then, Earl has worked just as tirelessly as he did on the track to use the events of his life to help save others. His organization, Earl Young’s Team, partners with DKMS to raise awareness for the need for more marrow donors in the U.S. by holding registration drives at universities, including his alma mater, Abilene Christian University, and at large companies. As of March 2015, his efforts have helped add more than 700 new potential lifesavers to the bone marrow registry.