NewsCovering Kern County


20-year-old cancer survivor from Bakersfield meets donor from Germany for the first time via Zoom

Julian Castaneda October 15, 2021
Posted at 10:25 PM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-16 01:25:23-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Friday, a young cancer survivor from Bakersfield got to meet a man all the way across the world whose act of kindness saved his life.

It was destiny, spanning continents and language barriers: 20-year-old Julien Castaneda from Bakersfield through the City of Hope found his bone marrow match in Johannes Eppler from Germany.

"Thank you very much. for having that big heart.” I don’t have the words to thank you for what you did. I appreciate what you did for my son. you saved his life,” Castaneda’s mom told Johannes, the donor, through tears.

It was Eppler’s act of kindness that ultimately helped Castaneda who was diagnosed with leukemia at only ten years old successfully fight cancer for a second time when it returned at 16-years-old.

“It was something I’d been waiting for a long time since I got the bone marrow transplant. It’s been four years since I received it. And I never contacted him or met him,” said Castaneda.

Julian was one of two cancer survivors the City of Hope chose to reunite with their bone marrow donors on Friday and while it was done over zoom it was just as emotional.

“He and his mother think you should consider yourself a part of their family now,” said Eppler’s translator.

Castaneda expressed his gratitude for Eppler.

“It’s amazing that you would do this very big gesture for someone you never met, you never knew,” said Castaneda.

Through that initial meeting, Castenada realized the two are kindred spirits. They have a mutual love for sports and helping their community. Eppler is a volunteer firefighter and Castaneda has a non-profit he founded to raise money for care packages and scholarships for cancer patients, the bags of love foundation.

“I really want to create memories like these that are long-lasting for patients and their families,” Castaneda.

Castenada, who is a Dodger’s fan added that this meeting was not the only memorable moment of the City of Hope Reunion. He received a shoutout from dodgers coach, Dave Roberts, who is also a cancer survivor.

“Julien, I know you’re a huge Dodgers fan and that you got to meet your stem cell donor, I know that was super emotional,” said Roberts.