Quebec leukemia patient Mai Duong finds cord blood donor
A Quebec woman’s desperate, months-long search for a compatible stem cell or umbilical cord match is over.
Mai Duong, a 34-year-old Vietnamese-Canadian battling acute leukemia, announced Tuesday that she has finally found a match.
"I'm going to have the transplant and hopefully everything will go well and hopefully I'll have a new marrow," Duong tearfully told reporters Tuesday. "I just hope I'm going to beat cancer once and for all."
"A woman gave birth to her child and has donated her baby's umbilical cord to save another life," reads a post on the Save Mai Duong Facebook page. "Thank you dear mommy, we cannot fathom the importance of your gesture. I am very moved."
Duong beat cancer last year, after chemotherapy that she had to terminate a 15-week pregnancy to undergo.
She was in remission until May, when blood tests revealed the leukemia had returned.
"Seventy per cent of people who had that type of leukemia were just cured with chemotherapy and unfortunately I'm in the 30 per cent," she said at the time.
Doctors said Duong would need a bone marrow transplant or cord blood stem cells and she needed it fast. Despite being on the international list, doctors struggled to find a match.
Duong said, for people who aren't Caucasian, finding the right donor can be like searching for a needle-in-a-haystack.
"Less than one per cent of the 25 million donors worldwide are Vietnamese," she wrote on her website. "All ethnic communities are severely under-represented in the world donor bank, making finding a compatible donor very difficult for me and countless others who are currently waiting for a transplant."
Not including Quebec, Canada Blood Services has 340,837 registered donors, but 71 per cent of them are Caucasian, and the rest are either "ethnically diverse" or of unknown origin. Hema-Quebec said approximately three per cent of its 47,000 registered stem-cell donors are of Asian descent.
Duong created a website to raise awareness of the numbers, and encourage people of Vietnamese background to donate stem cells. While her plea and patience have paid off, she knows there is still a long road ahead. Duong will still need to undergo chemotherapy and weeks of isolation. There is also the issue of cord blood containing fewer stem cells than bone marrow.
Doctors were hoping for a bone marrow donor, but a cord blood donor is the next best option. They were able to find a donor with a six-out-of-eight compatibility to Duong.
"The transplant process is paved with obstacles, and I cannot cry victory just yet," reads the Facebook post. "It will be a long, difficult process."
Doctors are hoping to begin the series of transfusions early next week.
With files from The Canadian Press