During the ACC’s annual spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla. in early May, Virginia Coach Mike London noticed that Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher was not in attendance. So during a conversation with N.C. State Coach Tom O’Brien, London inquired as to Fisher’s whereabouts.
“Well,” O’Brien said, “his son is in Minnesota and he’s got some blood disorder called …”
O’Brien struggled to remember the correct terminology, but London interjected.
“Fanconi anemia,” London said. And he was right.
London recalled that encounter Saturday before the Cavaliers went through their second training camp workout, one day after Fisher made his son’s illness – and his family’s pledge to fight it – public. London’s premonition had been born out of personal experience. His daughter, Ticynn, had been diagnosed with the same rare genetic disorder that causes bone marrow failure when she was four years old.
And so over the past few months, London said, he and Fisher have been “on each other’s speed dial.” The two football coaches have talked about what to expect and how to proceed. Their wives have turned into each other’s confidantes, as well.
Ticynn underwent chemotherapy, radiation treatments and eventually a bone marrow transplant in 2003. Her father was the donor. She has since returned to full health.
That’s the end goal for Fisher and his six-year-old son, Ethan, though their process is in the early stages. Jimbo and his wife, Candi, announced Friday the start of the Jimbo and Candi Fisher Kidz 1st Fund, which is aimed at raising awareness and research funds to search for a cure to a disease that affects roughly one out of every 350,000 people.
London has remained active in raising awareness for bone marrow research. During his time as the coach at Richmond and in each of the past two springs at Virginia, London and the football program have hosted a bone marrow registry drive. Thus far, two Cavaliers football players and another Virginia student have been identified as potential matches as a result of those registry drives.
“It’s been interesting with that story (the Fishers’) and continuing that story and continuing the message to get involved with bone marrow registry, because you could save a life,” London said Saturday.
London said he and Fisher already have begun discussions about various ways that their two teams can promote awareness for Fanconi anemia and the need for bone marrow donation in advance of their game Nov. 19 in Tallahassee.