Five months ago, Kevin Westin and Lateefah Simon were married after five years together, but their venue was not the most ideal: the ICU of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Clara.
Today, the couple plans to renew their vows at City Hall while also calling on people to become bone marrow donors. That’s because Westin is in dire need of a transplant; the ?44-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia six months ago and needs a ?transplant to stay alive.
Westin needs to find a match by the end of the month, according to www.kevinandlateefah.com, a website set up to assist in those efforts.
The task is made harder due to the fact that of the 10 million people on the bone marrow registry, only 8 percent are black.
Simon said not only is it important for the couple to find their own match, they are expanding their efforts to help other minorities who are suffering from an aggressive form of cancer.
“We want to end the stigma,” Simon said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. For folks in ethnic communities who do not have access to medical care, it’s a simple procedure that can save someone’s life.”
Westin is a journalist and Simon is a civil-rights leader. Simon said because of their professional work and involvement in minority communities, they have turned their attention to helping anyone in need.
“It’s extending our definition of social justice,” she said. “Kevin has worked his whole life with young people and talking about issues that people find uncomfortable. It’s only fitting we find ourselves newly educated and devoted to this crisis and tragedy.”
The event planned for today before the couple renews their vows is an effort to raise awareness about the importance of becoming a marrow donor. Westin and Simon are holding the event as part of the national campaign they launched last month to encourage 1,000 black donors to sign up for the donor registry. They hope to surpass that goal.
Westin and Simon married in September after he was diagnosed with the rare cancer, which affects adults over the age of 30. At the time, doctors did not give him long to live.
Simon said she hopes many people come out today so they can see that Westin is alive and that it’s easy to save someone’s life.
“A lot of folks die waiting for a donor, especially with aggressive cancers,” Simon said. “We want a miracle, and we want it fast.”