Save Mai Duong December 2016.
A meeting organized by one of our financial partners, Roche Canada. Several organizations are gathered in a Montreal hotel for a series of conferences. The first speaker steps up, a young woman, vibrant, fashionable. She looks vaguely familiar. Where have I seen her before? She begins telling her story. And that’s when I remember.
December 2012. Life has been good to Mai Duong, a young woman of 32, both personally and professionally. She has a husband, a beautiful little girl, and she’s happily pregnant with her second child. She has a job she loves as an executive in an advertising firm. What else could she ask for? But for the past few months, she’s been feeling tired and has a cold she can’t shake off. She blames her symptoms on her pregnancy.
But in January 2013, she is diagnosed with AML, after a routine blood sample taken for monitoring her pregnancy. The shock is terrible. Even worse, the treatments proposed are far too invasive: Mai will need to terminate her pregnancy. Mai is crushed…
Extensive chemotherapy is followed by a brief, 10-month remission period. But the cancer is back in May 2014. A stem cell transplant is needed. Since there are no compatible family members, Mai turns to international stem cell donor banks. But the fact that she is of Vietnamese origin complicates things, the majority of donors registered with these banks being Caucasians. She could wait patiently in her hotel room for a possible match. But she is acutely aware that time is running out. So Mai decides to mobilize all of her network contacts to make people aware of the importance of registering with the donor base.
From July to October 2014, several highly publicized actions are realized and a mega awareness campaign is launched. From her appearance on Tout le monde en parle, a French television program highly popular in Quebec, to her beautiful face appearing on billboards throughout Canada, Mai and her team will expand every efforts to advance her cause—hers but also that of thousands of Canadians in need of a stem cell transplant.
In 2014, thanks to Mai’s story and that of two other high-profile patients, the number of donors registering annually will go from 3,000 to 25,946, an unprecedented feat. And the number of Asian donors grows from 0.5% to 4%, 2,000 more donors.
Finally, in October 2014, Mai gets the news that a match has been found, a cord blood transplant. The transplant will be performed on October 9, 2014.
And Mai has been in remission since then. Mai’s story has had a happy ending.
But not everyone is that lucky. Some 22,510 Canadians are living with leukemia, and there are 5,900 new diagnoses each year. Sadly, leukemia will kill 2,900 of them. There is so much work still to be done! Mai is back caring for her family. She still works in advertising, but she is looking to get involved and make a difference, and she’s bursting with ideas!!! But for the near future, Mai has agreed to tell her story at the next Journey of Hope in Montreal, on May 27, 2017. And for that, I am very grateful to her.
Long live Mai!