Local dad fighting leukemia and needs bone marrow transplant, Donor drive May 18 in Steiner

By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News

After recently going to the doctor for a routine check-up and blood work as required by his life insurance policy, Steiner Ranch resident Chuk Starrett, 44, received news that would turn his world upside down. Though he felt healthy and was in the best shape of his life, his doctor told him he had an aggressive form of cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Chuk and his wife, Jennifer, could not believe the diagnosis. The doctor told him he needed to begin treatment immediately in Houston.

“I had zero symptoms,” Chuk said. “If it weren’t for the blood test for cholesterol, I never would’ve known. The doctors were like, ‘You feel great right now but that is going to change and it could change by tomorrow morning, so you’ve got to go now.’”

Chuk Starrett (middle), of Steiner Ranch, is battling an aggressive form of cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He has completed two of eight rounds of chemotherapy. Chuk and Jennifer Starrett with their sons Jack, 12, Dalton, 11, Ryan, 8, and Chuk's mom Pat Evans.

Chuk Starrett (middle), of Steiner Ranch, is battling an aggressive form of cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He has completed two of eight rounds of chemotherapy.
Chuk and Jennifer Starrett with their sons Jack, 12, Dalton, 11, Ryan, 8, and Chuk’s mom Pat Evans.

Before he could go, the couple had to have a very difficult conversation with their three sons, ages 12, 11 and 8.

“They were in shock,” Jennifer said. “Our oldest son had the toughest time. He’s in middle school and is a very tough kid. He cried and held onto Chuk for about half an hour and wouldn’t let him go. It was just so hard, we had to explain to them what leukemia is.”

Chuk Starrett and sons

Chuk Starrett and sons

Chemo treatments

Not knowing how long they would have to stay, the family packed up and traveled to Houston so Chuk could begin his chemotherapy treatment. He has completed two of the eight prescribed chemo rounds. Each round lasts one week. Fortunately, after each round, he is able to travel back home to recover for two weeks until the next session.

While he is not able to leave his house or have people over because of his weakened immune system, he is grateful that he is able to return home to recover, re-energize and spend time with his family in-between treatments.

“It makes you reprioritize everything in your life, especially when you have young kids,” Jennifer said. “Everything is about them. We’re just spending quality time with our family and just being supported and loved by our friends and neighbors, who’ve been fantastic, and just enjoying every day. That’s all you can do.”

After completing the eight rounds of chemo, Chuk will need to undergo a bone marrow transplant.

Bone marrow transplant

“The eight rounds of chemo can put me under remission but the bone marrow transplant is critical to stay alive but also to cure it,” Chuk said.

First, he must be matched with a compatible bone marrow donor. While many matches come from siblings, Chuk is an only child.

The couple’s friends and neighbors have organized a community donor drive for Chuk this Sunday, May 18, at the Steiner Ranch Towne Center Community Center, 12550 Country Trails Ln., from 3 – 7 p.m.

Those who attend the free event will have the opportunity to register as a donor by simply having a cheek swab. The sample will be entered into a worldwide donor database, so that even if a match for Chuk isn’t found at the event, it is likely a match could be found for someone else fighting the disease.

“It’s really easy to do, it takes five minutes to register, 20 seconds to get a cheek mouth swab, and you could possibly save someone’s life within minutes,” said Jennifer.

She added that is it very non-invasive. “If you are a match, 80 percent of the time all they do is an IV and draw blood and they do everything in the lab.”

Persevering with support

The Starretts said the support they have received from the Steiner Ranch community has been amazing, from receiving meals to neighbors giving rides to their children so they can continue attending all their after-school activities.

“The number of people who’ve come forward has just been overwhelming,” Chuk said. “I never could’ve anticipated how generous and loving people have been.”

Coincidentally, the Starretts beloved dog, Simon, was diagnosed with cancer the week after Chuk. He had surgery last week to have a tumor removed.

“They’re two peas in a pod,” Jennifer said. “Everybody knows my husband as the guy who walks his boxer around the neighborhood. Chuk gets diagnosed so then, of course, a week later Simon has to get diagnosed too because he’s like, ‘If my dad’s going to go through it, I’m going to go through it too.’”

Looking forward

Chuk said advances in medicine mean that his prognosis is much more positive than those who were diagnosed with the disease even a few years ago.

“Five years ago, this was a death sentence,” he said. “And though my life is still at risk, very much so, the advances and the treatments and the people who have suffered before me now make it a lot easier for me. That’s the hardest thing to get your mind around.”

While his second round of chemo was very difficult, Chuk said overall he still feels great. He is grateful to be able to come home at the end of each treatment to spend time with his wife, who he describes as a superhero, and his three boys, who give him the strength to persevere.

“My attitude toward it is nobody survives life,” he said. “Everybody’s going to die someday. I don’t need to live forever, but I do have very young children who I’d like to see grow into young men. They’re the reason.”

May 18 fundraiser

While insurance covers much of the cost, the family will be responsible for a percentage of the $2 million treatment.

The Sunday donor drive in Steiner will also be a fundraiser featuring a silent auction to help the family with their medical expenses.

To donate toward the Starretts medical expenses, visithttp://www.gofundme.com/8wnykw or go to Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/218623121680369/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming.

Starrett family

Starrett family