Cassandra Wadham of Burlington was in a life or death situation.
“I started to experience infections, weakness and night sweats,” recalls Cassandra. “I went to the Emergency Room at my local hospital when I developed a mouth sore. They ran blood tests and immediately sent me to Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre for suspected leukemia.”
After a bone marrow biopsy was conducted, 37-year-old Cassandra was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
For seven months Cassandra underwent intense induction and consolidation chemotherapy, as well as full-body radiation treatment to prepare her system for a stem cell transplant. Since stem cell transplants have the potential to save the lives of leukemia patients, the search for a matching donor through the worldwide donor registry began immediately.
“I was in isolation for 100 days at home to minimize the risk of infection, leaving only for medical appointments.”
Luckily a donor match was found with Erika Duffy from New Jersey. Time was of the essence and Erika’s stem cells were flown to Hamilton in an effort to save Cassandra’s life.
The transplant was successful and Cassandra slowly regained strength after her terrifying ordeal.
“It took about six weeks for me to recover to the point where I could be discharged,” says Cassandra. “I was in isolation for 100 days at home to minimize the risk of infection, leaving only for medical appointments.”
A year after the transplant, both Cassandra and Erika consented to having their contact information shared and they were soon in touch by email.
“I owe my life to Erika. Without the transplant, I probably would have died.”
“Since 2013, Erika and I have been in contact every single day and we’ve become best friends,” says Cassandra. “I owe my life to Erika. Without the transplant, I probably would have died.”
Cassandra is now thriving and looking forward to February 3, 2017, which will mark five years in remission, at which point she will be considered cured.
“I can look forward to tomorrow and the future thanks to my stem cell transplant,” Cassandra explains. “I think it’s really important that people donate funds to support Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre Foundation because it helps save lives like mine,” says Cassandra. “That’s why campaigns like Tomorrow Stems From You are so important to your community and your loved ones.”
Tomorrow Stems From You is a campaign to enable the expansion of a dedicated and specialized clinical space, and to purchase essential equipment, so that Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre can provide 50 per cent more cancer patients with potentially life-saving stem cell transplants. Donate today at hamiltonhealth.ca/stems.