At high risk of leukemia, longtime Darien deli owner seeks community's help

Mama Carmela's owner Frank Colandro, a Stamford native and resident, is in need of a stem cell transplant after chemotherapy. He is hoping members of the community will respond by requesting kits to see if they are a match.

Mama Carmela's owner Frank Colandro, a Stamford native and resident, is in need of a stem cell transplant after chemotherapy. He is hoping members of the community will respond by requesting kits to see if they are a match.

Mama Carmela’s / Contributed photo

DARIEN — Mama Carmela’s in Noroton Heights is dotted with photos of the various local sports teams to support the community throughout its 20 years.

But now, Mama Carmela’s owner, Frank Colandro, needs some of the community’s support.

Colandro has been battling cancer for 11 years. After five years, he said he is lymphoma free, but the 320 hours of chemotherapy destroyed his stem cells. His doctors now say he is a high risk for leukemia.

“The doctors say it’s not if, it’s when,” he said.

Faced with the need to fortify himself for yet another health battle, Colandro took to social media to find a stem cell match.

“I’ve been in the registry for three months and nothing’s come up,” he said.

With his latest blood test numbers not looking promising, Colandro said he took to social media in hopes his community would spread the word.

Though Colandro comes from a large family, none of his four siblings are a match.

“Usually, the best match is a brother or a sister,” he said.

He tried to have a stem cell transplant from his own cells years ago, but he said it was unsuccessful.

In the hopes that he gets a match, he’s busy trying to get his business in order. If Colandro receives a stem cell transplant, he needs to quarantine for six to 12 months and will be unable to work.

For now, Colandro, who is an uncle to 13 nieces and nephews and 17 great nieces and nephews, says he expects to receive an update from his doctors this week.

If Colandro finds a match, he points out the donation process is simple.

“If you become a donor, no surgeries — they just draw your blood and take some stem cells out,” he said.

Updated location:

A drive-through stem cell registration event is being held on on Saturday, May 22 at the Noroton Heights Train Station northbound parking lot, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Prospective donors should enter from the Hollow Tree Ridge Road entrance.

For those between the ages of 18-44 and willing to donate to any patient in need please join the Be The Match Registry today. Text mamadeli to 61474. Complete the online registration and a cheek swab will be mailed to you. If you are found to be a match and go on to donate, the patients doctor will request that you donate either peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) or marrow. Questions? Contact nmdpdonor@dfci.harvard.edu”