Roxbury Grad Slays Cancer, Uses Hoops to Raise Awareness

Dan Exter was climbing the ranks covering sports in the Greater New York City area. Young and fit, Exter led a healthy life, finding time to play basketball, his lifelong passion, while maintaining a busy work schedule. However, in the summer of 2013, and over several months, the Roxbury Class of 2004 alum experienced shortness of breath. Eventually Exter visited his doctor who, after numerous tests, did not find issues with his lungs or any trace of asthma. With no conclusion as to what had caused the discomfort, Exter’s doctor ordered a long-shot blood test. Days later, on Saturday, July 13, Exter received the life-changing news that he had an elevated white blood cell, a low red count & was considered anemic, which was abnormal for a young, healthy man.

More tests and discussions with doctors followed, and the diagnosis became clear: Exter had A.L.L., or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. According to the Mayo Clinic, ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children, and has a high success rate for cure. In adults, however, the chances for cure are greatly reduced.

Dan Exter 3

In 2013 a healthy Exter found the shock of his life that he was stricken with a rare form of Leukemia (photo edited by Aakash Kanjani).

Exter was distraught and shocked, not sure how a healthy guy like him could be diagnosed with such a dangerous disease. He calmly informed his family and friends before being told he would need a bone marrow transplant. With this news Exter’s only brother was tested for a match. Despite just a 25% chance of matching, luck was on Exter’s side as his brother, Jason, fit the profile and was able to give an important blood donation.

Over the course of two days, Jason gave millions of blood cells in the T-Cell depleted transfusion. After the successful bone marrow transplant and multiple weeks of chemotherapy & full body radiation, Exter was told he was in remission. In a recent interview with Morris Sussex Sports, Exter admitted his fight with cancer “broke [him].” But he was forced to ask himself the question, “When I make it out, how can I give back?”

Thanks to his brother Jason's bone marrow donation, Dan was able to put his cancer into full remission (photo edited by Aakash Kanjani).

Thanks to his brother Jason’s bone marrow donation, Dan was able to put his cancer into full remission (photo edited by Aakash Kanjani).

Exter decided to combine his love for basketball with the appreciation he has for the family, friends and doctors who guided him through his battle with cancer to create Layups 4 Life. The all-day 3-on-3 basketball tournament is sponsored by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Dan spent so much time, and is intended to bring friends, family and strangers together to celebrate life. Exter describes his battle with A.L.L. as having taught him “not to sweat the little things in life, and enjoy the bigger things.”

Layups 4 Life, however, is more than just a fun day with friends and family playing casual pickup basketball. In April 2015, over 30 teams competed, with the ultimate champion being former Roxbury coach Jon Deeb’s team, who beat a very talented team from the Bronx in a heated contest.

Exter thanks a lot of his recovery to his close friends and family for helping him through his diagnosis and recovery (photo edited by Aakash Kanjani).

Exter thanks a lot of his recovery to his close friends and family for helping him through his diagnosis and recovery (photo edited by Aakash Kanjani).

Roxbury High School will host the second-ever Layups 4 Life on Sunday, April 10, 2016.

Exter encourages participation regardless of affiliation with him or local basketball. As long as the player are 15 years or older, a team of four is guaranteed 3 to 4 games throughout the day. Forty teams are expected to compete this year, along with a 50/50, a raffle and a silent auction to go along with music and concessions. Exter’s hope is to raise $15,000 with all proceeds from the tournament being split between pediatric leukemia research, bone marrow research and leukemia research.

Visit layups4life.org to sign up and learn more about the tournament, and contact Dan at layups4life@gmail.com.  See Dan’s video story HERE.

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