Hello and Thanks For Saving My Life!

Flashback to transplant day – October 24th, 2018

Sunday, January 24th, 2021 – 2 years and 3 months Post-Transplant

It’s a cold, snowy Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting at my dining room table with a cup of coffee, watching the snow fly and thinking about how I can sum up the last few months. I’m having trouble remembering what “normal life” is – seems like so much has changed lately!

I’ve recently had quite the incredible experience, that has helped bring a new piece of understanding to my Leukemia treatment, and that I wanted to share with you. As you may know from reading my blog, in October 2018 I received a stem-cell transplant from a 10/10 genetically matched, unrelated donor. That infusion of donor stem cells helped push me into full remission and regain my health, and is one of the reasons I am here today. Until recently, all of I have known of this generous person who had helped save my life was that she was a young woman in her twenties, and that she had a different blood type than I did. I didn’t know where she was, what inspired her to donate, or anything about her for that matter. Two weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail that changed all that.

Christiane donating stem cells, October 22nd, 2018
(Used with permission)

After more than 2 years of waiting, I would like to introduce you to Christiane, my genetic twin in Germany. She is from a small village in Bavaria, where she works as a speech therapist. In 2013, there was a young girl in her area in need of a stem cell transplant for Leukemia, and it was then that she registered as a potential donor, in hopes of finding a match for this girl. When she received the call 5 years later that someone else may be needing her stem-cells, she did not hesitate to donate, and it is because of this that I am here now. She speaks very good English (which is great, because I don’t speak German), and I’ve been excited to get to know her lately. We have been corresponding back and forth by email and WhatsApp over the last couple weeks, and have had lots to share. I was very interested to find out that she had been just as curious to learn of who I was as I had been about her. Because of the rules governing stem cell donations in Canada, it was not possible for us to make contact until I was 2-years post-transplant. However, she did not know this, and thought that perhaps I did not want to make contact.

In early November (coincidentally on my 30th birthday), Canadian Blood Services passed on Christiane’s contact info, and it was then that I learned her name and location, but nothing else. I wrote her a letter thanking her for saving my life, and expressing my interest in getting to know her, not knowing whether we would hear anything back. Because of postal delays, it took a little while to get there and we weren’t even sure whether it made it (tracking showed it stuck in mail purgatory in a sorting depot for 5 weeks), but now she tells me she was quite thrilled when it arrived, and a wonderful surprise on her end. She wrote me back also by mail, and receiving her letter and details on her life became a great way for us to kick off the new year. We have since decided that as nice as handwritten letters are, email and WhatsApp are a much faster way to talk! She shared with me that the day she received my letter, she read through the whole blog, and she was very touched by those videos from transplant day. This made me very happy, and I look forward to continuing to developing a friendship with her – virtually for now, but perhaps one day, when the pandemic is over, Lauren and I will make it to Germany to visit.

I have to admit – it’s been a bit surreal getting to know my stem cell donor, and I’m sure it probably has been for Christiane as well. We live in very different worlds and are oceans apart, but yet also share much in common, and a unique bond that not many other people have. Since the transplant, I have developed a love of sweet foods that I did not have before – it turns out this is likely Christiane’s fault, as she happens to love sweets, and probably passed this onto me. From all I have been able to gather so far, she is an incredibly kind, generous person who cares deeply for others. I certainly hope to meet her in person one day, this genetic twin of mine.

As we enter into 2021, I wish you all health, blessings and happiness. With warmth and friendship,

Mike

6 thoughts on “Hello and Thanks For Saving My Life!

  1. Oh my gosh, this whole post is amazing! It’s so sweet and made me well up a little. This is such a unique story and friendship. I’m so happy you’re doing well. The fact that you are able to communicate with the woman who helped you must be so spiritually enriching for you both. So glad I read this gorgeous post.

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  2. Wo, what an incredible story. This young lady is a true hero. I’m so glad you finally got to meet her. I hope you guys get to go to Germany one day and all hang out! Seriously, this is such a heart warming story!

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  3. Fantastic to hear you are doing so well and managed to make contact with your donor! Covid has been tough in the UK but I feel that isolation on the haematology ward prepared me well and it’s lovely to spend time at home, something that I don’t take for granted any more.

    Good luck in your career change and stay safe!

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    1. What a beautiful story. You were on our prayer chain through your grandma Alice. It’s nice to hear what the results are for someone we have become connected to through prayer. Heather

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