British Columbia
Stem Cells

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Blood Sisters

My name is Ann and I am now 54 years old, Thanks to my stem cell donor.

I was diagnosed with Non Hodgekins Lymphoma in 2003. I did 3 years of chemotherapy but never heard the "Remission" word. By 2006 the cancer was back and had transformed into a secondary cancer. The only hope left for me was a Bone Marrow Transplant. I was sent to Vancouver Gen Hospital to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Department and met my new doctor. She told me that they would try a stem cell transplant instead of of bone marrow transplant. I had no idea what a stem cell transplant was and had never heard of it. I was so excited and hopeful at the news, as a bone marrow transplant is not pretty, for the patient or the donor. So, before we could do the stem cell transplant, I began the heavy duty chemotherapy treatments, every 3 weeks. I had to have 8 rounds of it and full body radiation for a week near the end of all the chemo. The VGH team and blood services started looking for a stem cell match for me. They look at the antigens in the blood. They rate it out of 10. They tested my two full siblings and found a 5 out of 10 match. Not good enough. So they went to the world wide registry. Just as I was on my 7th round of Chemotherapy, we got the news that they found a 9 out of 10 match! That means a 70% success rate, 30 % fatal. 70 % sounded pretty good to me. My family cried with relief. I was admitted to the hospital for the last round of heavy chemo, and had full body radiation every day for a week. I was very week and sick but the magical day finally arrived. February 2, 2007. I was given the stem cells through a blood transfusion. I think there were 2 or 3 bags of what looked liked blood but were stem cells.

I was doped up on Benadryl so I slept through a lot of it, but the nurse and my mother sat and watched those stem cells drip through the IV and into my body.

It took a year to feel somewhat normal again, but I was cancer free and the new fighter stem cells of my donor are doing its job in me.

I was not told who my donor was, as that is strictly confidential. All that I was told is that it falls under racial lines. I was also told I would have to wait 2 years to find out who the donor is and that is if the donor will allow it.

So I waited the two years and started feeling better and better apart from a few side effects. My donor was told she was helping a female in Canada. Oops I just gave it away. My donor is a she! After the two years we both signed release forms and.... my best friend in the universe was revealed! She emailed me 1st and there have been many emails since. Her name is Nicole and she is from Duisburg, Germany. Both my parents are Dutch with mostly Dutch background. So a German girl named Nicki who is 9 years younger than me, saved my life. I am the Dutch girl with the German blood! Yesterday Nicki and I spoke on our phones thru "what's app" for the very 1 st time. We were so overwhelmed... I am still on cloud 9. We met thru email 8 years ago...(well actually 10 years ago through an IV drip) and in August of this year, we will meet in person as we celebrate 10 years post stem cell transplant! She is coming to Vancouver Island with her sister and their husbands. (Her sister was an 8 out of 10 match for me) . We are all so very very excited. I can't ever thank her enough, but I will honor her anyway I can. I am so grateful for the team at VGH and For the Canadian Blood Services! They save so many lives in more ways than one. I am forever eternally grateful to Nicki, she donated blood and stem cells and saved my life. Thank you to all the blood donors out there. I needed lots of it during all my chemo therapy. My family is still whole. My mother still has her daughter, my brothers still have their sister, my children still have their mom, my husband still has his wife and now I am a grandma to three adorable babies. I am the most fortunate woman in the world. I can't wait to meet Nicki on August 20/2017.

Yesterday, when Nicki and I spoke for the very 1st time on "Whats app", she said...

"We are Blood Sisters".