“It’s surreal,” Daniels, 25, tells PEOPLE. “I can’t believe it.”
Daniels was 19-years-old and a promising sophomore at Fordham University in New York City when he was diagnosed with the blood cancer.
Despite four relapses and 30 rounds of chemotherapy, Daniels never gave up trying to find a bone marrow match – something he needed to survive.
But the last thing Daniels expected was that he would save numerous lives as he tried to save his own.
His outreach helped more than 50 cancer patients find their donor matches.
His Final Shot
Daniels, who never found his perfect match, was told that his final shot at surviving would be to get an alternative stem cell transplant.
On March 25, with his mother, father and brother by his side, he had the transplant at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
“This type of transplant is very risky,” says Daniels. “Some people die from it. There was a 30 percent chance before the surgery that I would. But the complications for most people can be very bad.”
Although the transplant put him in complete remission, his recover has been far from easy.
Two days after he was released from the hospital, Daniels started to bleed during urination and had severe clots to due to the amount of radiation and chemotherapy he received over the years.
“This could have happened at any time,” he says, “but it decided to begin right after the transplant. If this is the price I have to pay for a little while, I’m okay with that.”
His condition, hemorrhagic cystitis, which causes blood in his urine, has kept him in Houston since the transplant.
“It’s been really hard,” he says. “It felt like I was replacing cancer with another cancer.”
To treat the condition, he gets hyperbaric oxygen therapy that helps fight serious infections – two hours a day, five days a week.
But Daniels, who has had 37 of those therapy sessions so far and is starting to feel better, is determined to keep on fighting and hopes to fly home to Ridgewood, New Jersey, on August 11, where he will continue treatment.
“I’m looking forward to resuming my life and being able to live,” says Daniels, who is also an avid boxer. “I haven’t had the opportunity in almost six years to live the way I want to do.”
He’s also excited to get back to work at Got Cheeks, a campaign he co-founded that is aimed at getting people to sign up as potential donors for stem-cell transplants – often the last resort in a cancer patient’s treatment.
“Despite everything I’ve been through, I’m lucky,” says Daniels. “Over the last few months, I’ve seen some really sick people and it puts everything into perspective. I can’t wait to get home. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to live.”