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Mystery stem cell donor gives Toronto mother

a new chance at life


Cathy Anagnostopoulos (centre) and her family were overjoyed when a matching stem cell donor was found. But she still must undergo another round of chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant.


Story from "Toronto Star" 


There is a stranger out there who Cathy Anagnostopoulos wants to find.


She doesn’t know whether the person is a man or a woman, from across town or across the country. Since the two of them share remarkable genetic similarities, it’s likely the stranger is also Greek.


Not a lot to go on.


But some day, Anagnostopoulos hopes she can meet her stem cell match.


“What this person has given me is basically my life back,” said the mother of three. “It’s just such a selfless thing. The fact that someone is willing to do that for another person is just amazing.”


Last February, Anagnostopoulos was unexpectedly diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare and deadly blood and bone marrow cancer. Doctors said only a stem cell transplant would save her. When no one in her family was compatible, they launched a campaign to find her an unrelated match.


In April, they appealed to the public, encouraging people to register with the Stem Cell and Marrow Network registry, run by the OneMatch division of the Canadian Blood Services. That month, saw a 45 per cent increase in online registrants, Anagnostopoulos said.


Over the spring, her family organized 10 clinics where people could take cheek swab tests to see if they were a match. The events brought out more than 4,000 people.


Meanwhile, Anagnostopoulos underwent three rounds of chemotherapy, wondering and worrying if she would be healthy enough for a transplant if a match was found.


It was during a doctor’s appointment on the last day of June that Anagnostopoulos got the good news.


“The entire day I felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody. Whoever I tried to tell, I was just blubbering,” she said. “I almost felt like if I said it out loud, it wouldn’t be real.”


Anagnostopoulos’s family — her husband of nearly 20 years, Nick, and their children, Alexander, 15, Angela, 12, and Gregory, 10 — are overjoyed that a match has been found, she said. But it doesn’t end their ordeal.


“I still have an uphill battle,” said Anagnostopoulos.


She starts a fourth round of chemo next week to destroy any cancer cells in preparation for the transplant, which she expects will happen in the early fall, shortly after her 45th birthday.


The donor will be given shots of a drug to increase the number of stem cells in the blood. Unlike bone marrow, which is collected under anesthesia, stem cells are collected through a relatively uninvasive procedure called apheresis.


Blood is drawn and then put through a centrifuge that separates the stem cells. The remaining blood is transferred back to the donor while the stem cells are delivered intravenously to the recipient.


Everyone reacts to the procedure differently, Anagnostopoulos said, adding that she’ll still be “pretty sick.”


“It’s hard but when you come out of it at the end, it’s just so amazing. We’ll have another struggle on our hands but it will be so worth it.”


From the “Toronto Star”




The Cyprus
 News Agency


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