Utah man who donated bone marrow to older brother now fights own battle with cancer

Brian and Marilee Laney pose with their three sons. Brian Laney has been diagnosed with cancer — 30 years after donating bone marrow to his older brother, Michael Laney.

Brian and Marilee Laney pose with their three sons. Brian Laney has been diagnosed with cancer — 30 years after donating bone marrow to his older brother, Michael Laney. (Bethany Epps )


3 photos
Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

PAYSON — Brian Laney was a newly returned Latter-day Saint missionary and, in 1995, he found himself at the University of Utah Hospital donating bone marrow with the hope of saving his older brother Michael Laney's life. Nearly 30 years later, Brian Laney, 50, is fighting his own battle with leukemia, praying his own story might end differently than his older brother's.

Michael Laney passed away due to lung failure following that procedure on Aug. 15, 1995, at the age of 23.

Brian Laney's story is one of those gut-wrenching ones that doesn't begin with a happy ending and appears to continue in earthly tragedy. Even so, when KSL.com spoke to members of the Laney family, it was evident this story has all the components of sadness, hope, joy, devastation and complete faith in something beyond this life.

Brian and Michael Laney were athletes at Timpview High School in their youth. Michael Laney passed away in 1995 after receiving a bone marrow transplant from Brian Laney, who is now fighting his own battle with cancer.
Brian and Michael Laney were athletes at Timpview High School in their youth. Michael Laney passed away in 1995 after receiving a bone marrow transplant from Brian Laney, who is now fighting his own battle with cancer. (Photo: Elizabeth Laney)

"We always had faith in the Savior and the resurrection and Atonement, and it does make it easier to believe in something after this life," family matriarch Elizabeth Laney explained.

Elizabeth Laney talked about the family's faith being what Michael Laney clung to when he was originally diagnosed in 1991 while serving at the Missionary Training Center in Provo. He spent seven months in the hospital and, upon leaving, was insistent on serving out his mission in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"Even though we said that he didn't really need to serve his mission because the Lord would accept his efforts, he wanted to go," Elizabeth Laney recalled.

Michael Laney served his entire two-year mission while continuing to receive chemotherapy and, according to his mom, was a "top baptizer" in his area. Upon returning home, he finished a couple of semesters at Brigham Young University, and then cancer hit, again.

As the years have gone on, the family has done all they can to remember Michael Laney and hold onto their faith that they will be reunited with him again. Each year at Christmastime, they gather as a family at his grave in Payson and sing "Away in a Manger," which was their brother's lullaby song. Brian Laney and his mother said that Michael Laney's passing has, in a way, brought the family closer together — in love and faith.

Brian Laney's diagnosis

In January 2023, however, during a routine blood test, Brian Laney learned he had chronic myeloid leukemia, which is categorized as a slow-moving blood cancer, set about by a sudden chromosome mutation. When Elizabeth Laney heard the news of a second son being affected by cancer, she said she was both sad and hopeful.

"Brian and his wife Marilee came over and told us he had just been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, which is a different type of leukemia than Michael had," Elizabeth Laney recalled. "Brian told us that his doctor said, 'If you're gonna get cancer, this is the best kind to get.' We were all hopeful that with the treatments, he would be able to get through this."

After just a few months, it was discovered Brian Laney had some cancer cells that weren't responding to treatment.

Not long after, he developed some infections that weren't responding well to antibiotics. It was soon found that Brian's cancer had entered into the blast phase, where it can spread quickly throughout the body. This news caused Brian Laney to reflect on the life he has lived while hoping for the best and holding on to faith that life extends beyond the grave.


I want you to know that I'm OK with whatever happens. I've had a good life.

–Brian Laney


Experiencing cancer firsthand has opened his eyes up to what his older brother experienced all those years ago.

"I know my brother went through it — and a lot of people go through it — but it's something you'd have to experience to understand the toll it takes on you," Brian Laney said. "I've gained a new understanding of what people before me have gone through.

"I make a joke about how it seems like they stuff you full of medicine as much as they can and then they see if your body can handle more and then they fill you with more," he continued. "But, I've been OK. It's good what they're doing and you just have to be positive and remember they're trying to help you."

'You're not supposed to outlive your children'

While there is no official prognosis and doctors at Huntsman Cancer Institute are doing all they can to get Brian Laney's condition back to the chronic phase, the blast phase is the final stage of cancer. As a family that knows what it is like to lose this battle, there is a palpable sadness in their faith-filled fight.

Brian Laney, of Payson, has been diagnosed with cancer 30 years after donating bone marrow to his older brother Michael Laney, who lost his battle to cancer in 1995.
Brian Laney, of Payson, has been diagnosed with cancer 30 years after donating bone marrow to his older brother Michael Laney, who lost his battle to cancer in 1995. (Photo: Marilee Laney)

"It's really hard for parents to watch their child suffer no matter what age they are — no matter if they're little or grown, it's very difficult," Elizabeth Laney said. "You're not supposed to outlive your children. It's hard right now. I have two sisters who have children who are going through similar things."

For now, Brian Laney is receiving treatment at Huntsman, and he will return home during treatment rotations to be surrounded by family, while also looking forward to calls with his youngest son who is serving a mission in Houston, Texas.

"The day Brian came over and told us that he had cancer, he said, 'I want you to know that I'm OK with whatever happens. I've had a good life,'" Elizabeth Laney recalled."

A GoFundMe* campaign has been set up to assist the Laneys with mounting medical bills.

*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

Photos

Most recent Health stories

Related topics

LifestyleHealthUtahFamily
Arianne Brown has been a contributing writer at KSL.com for many years with a focus of sharing heartwarming stories.

STAY IN THE KNOW

Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast