Mystery stem cell donor gives hope

Leaside woman 'moved to tears' at the news of finding a match

Listening to Cathy Anagnostopoulos you’d never detect a trace of illness in her cheery voice despite her battle with acute myeloid leukemia.

But the 44-year-old mother of three has every reason to be cheery.

Her search for a stem cell match finally came to an end in late June when she received the good news from her doctor.

“We were moved to tears,” she said. “The kids were ecstatic.”

After the Leaside resident was diagnosed and underwent unsuccessful chemotherapy sessions, doctors informed her that her best chance for survival was a stem cell transplant.

Although Anagnostopoulos is eager to learn the identity of her donor, she’ll have to wait a year until she meets the mystery man or woman. But there’s the possibility that she’ll never meet her potential saviour as the donor’s identity will only be revealed if he or she consents to it.

All Anagnostopoulos and her family know about the donor is that he or she is a nine out of 10 match. She doesn’t even know if the donor was from the swapping events that her family and friends organized in her name.

“We don’t even know if it’s somebody local or even from Canada,” she said.

Regardless of the donor’s origin, Anagnostopoulos’ family and friends continue to support and volunteer with the Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch swabbing events — even though the mother has found a match.

“I’m hoping the swapping events, whether they helped me personally or not, will help someone else,” she said. “We try to get more people to register for the bone marrow and stem cell registry.”

Unlike organ transplants, where the sacrifice is relatively greater, stem cell donors have nothing to lose except for a few cells, she said.

Anagnostopoulos said her transplant is scheduled for early October. But she has to undergo a series of tests before then. She still has to receive a round of chemotherapy as well as undergo heart and lung scans to make sure she is healthy and strong enough for the transplant. The procedure is non-surgical and will only last a few hours.

“I’ll get a little concentrated pouch of blood,” she said. “They’ll infuse it into me through an IV line in my chest.”

It’ll take a few weeks to determine if her body accepts or rejects the transplant.

In the meantime, Anagnostopoulos is grateful for her family. She said the grueling journey has taught her family to take nothing for granted.

“It’s taught them (children) how fragile a family unit can be,” she said.

About this article:

By: Alima Hotakie
Posted: Sep 7 2011 11:34 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto