Russ | Toronto, ON
Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
“I’d been living with a low white blood cell count for about six years when a biopsy showed a rare type of bone marrow cancer called MDS. It’s a shock to hear the word ‘cancer,’ but I was mostly relieved that someone had finally figured out what the heck was wrong with me.
The only cure for MDS is a stem cell transplant, and though the risks are high, I was assured that my good health made me an ideal candidate. It was just a matter of finding a donor. I started talking with my family. My sisters went in to see if they were a match. No luck. Then one day I got a call that they had found a perfect 10/10 match from an anonymous donor.
In early 2021, in the capable hands of my team at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, we moved forward with my transplant.
“There’s always a shortage of stem cell donors, just as there’s always a shortage of blood, and I am so awed by the people who donate to save lives just out of the goodness of their heart.”
Now, I’m starting a whole new chapter of my life. My wife Carol and I have moved into a new condo in downtown Toronto and we’re loving it, sort of re-exploring the city. We have so much to live for. We recently added our sixth grandchild and I’d like to be here with all of them for as long as I can be. We’ve got a great group of friends we go to Europe with every couple of years, rent a villa, eat great food and drink great wine. I’m really looking forward to getting to do that again too. It’s incredible to realize that so much of what’s to come for me is thanks to the generosity of someone I’ve never met.
The donor sent me the nicest letter after the transplant, saying that if I needed anything else, he was there for me. It was hard to find the words to write back. There’s always a shortage of stem cell donors, just as there’s always a shortage of blood, and I am so awed by the people who donate to save lives just out of the goodness of their heart.
I’m celebrating the one-year anniversary of my transplant in March, my new birthday, and champagne will be popped, but I’m really looking forward to my two-year anniversary. In Canada, you can meet your anonymous donors after two years, and I can’t wait to thank him for saving my life.”