‘I think you have leukemia’, the young doctor turns to her and says. “Please go to the hospital right away to ensure you are safe for the weekend”. That was the summer of 2013 when Dorothy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Dorothy recalls how numb she became upon hearing such devastating news. “It’s the worse news you ever want to hear”, she says. “It’s like a gorilla size kick to the gut”. As a devoted mother, wife, entrepreneur and serial volunteer life was very good. She had big plans for the future. Real big plans.
Then her world as she knew it came crashing down – with a big, mighty thud – a diagnosis that would change the trajectory of her life and her work.
Towards the end of that summer, Dorothy began conventional treatment in one of leading hospitals in Toronto. The treatments went very well and put her in remission. Dorothy felt she had beat this dreadful disease. She resumed her daily life and activities.
Ten months later her world would come crashing down again when the leukemia returned; she had relapsed. This time, the best chance for long term survival was a stem cell transplant. For a successful stem cell transplant to happen, a patient needs a compatible donor. Dorothy’s most likely donor would come from one of her siblings. This wasn’t to be. Another devastating blow, as none of her four (4) siblings was a full compatible ‘match’. Statistically, less than twenty-five per cent (25%) of patients who need a stem cell transplant will find a match in their family.
Her next line of defense was to turn to Canada’s donor registry – OneMatch (www.OneMatch.ca) for a compatible unrelated donor. There was none. Another blow. None even, in the dozens of worldwide registries that give patients access to over twenty (20) million potential donors.
Desperate and with the threat of the disease progressing quickly, Dorothy along with some friends and family began an urgent drive to find a possible unrelated donor.
Patients are most likely to find a compatible donor within their own ethnic background. Being of black heritage, Dorothy was most likely to find an unrelated compatible donor from the black community, particularly the African-Caribbean community. To compound matters, because Dorothy was of mixed heritage, it made the search even more difficult.
More bad news, potential black donors in Canada’s OneMatch registry was, and still continues to be severely under represented. According to the most recent statistics, the OneMatch registry is comprised of only one percent (1%) black potential donors . The chances of Dorothy and other patients like her finding a donor was and continues to be woefully dismal.
Given this realization, the non-profit DonorDrive4Dorothy was born. Its mission is to educate, create awareness and increase the numbers of potential black donors in Canada’s OneMatch registry.
Since its first swabbing event in 2014, DonorDrive4Dorothy, through its’s continuous and unrelenting efforts via swab events in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Ottawa has directly increased the OneMatch registry with over five hundred (500) potential donors.
Today, Dorothy has had a successful stem cell transplant and has resumed her life. She spends a lot of her time promoting the mission and vision of DonorDrive4Dorothy – helping to create awareness of the urgent need for compatible donor for the other Dorothy’s out there.