Partners for Life

In October, Mary Ly participated in a five km run as part of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with 47 friends and family members. They weren’t all just running for fun, however; they were running for her life.

Mary was told she had myelofibrosis last spring during a routine check-up. Diagnosed with a blood disorder in her early twenties, Mary has been taking blood thinning medication and thought the drugs were no longer working when she went to see her doctor. Instead, doctors told her she would need a stem cell transplant to beat the disease.

“After hearing the diagnosis, my first thoughts were about how I was going to break the news to my family,” says Mary. “Then I thought, our family’s challenge is to face this together and hope my other half is there somewhere.”

While the search for her matching donor continues, Mary did find the OtherHalf Chinese Stem Cell Initiative through her connection with the OneMatch patient and transplant liaison team.

“I learned that as a patient of Asian descent I would have more difficulties in finding a match. That’s why I wanted to get more people from my community to register with OneMatch, not just for me but for all patients,” stresses Mary. “I came upon OtherHalf and their work with OneMatch and started working with them on raising awareness about the need for donors.”

Since 2008, OtherHalf has worked side-by-side with OneMatch by providing healthy and committed potential Asian Canadian stem cell donors to patients who wait for a stem cell transplant to survive. True pioneers in diversifying the OneMatch Network, OtherHalf has raised the profile of this critical healthcare issue in not only the Chinese Canadian community but within other ethnically-diverse communities as well.

As a OneMatch recruitment partner, the group continues to think creatively about engaging potential donors, especially with the change in registration criteria focusing on younger and predominantly male donors. OtherHalf has embraced the need for younger donors and are continuing to work with youth groups across the country making sure peer engagement and excitement about saving lives is at the forefront of their recruitment efforts.

“I was so excited about the marathon and all the support from family and new friends from OtherHalf,” says Mary of her experience. “I didn’t know if I would be able to finish but their encouragement really lifted my spirits and in the end, I did cross that finish line!”

Seeing 47 new friends running in capes embroidered with messages about stem cell donations is certainly uplifting. This is just one of the many ways OtherHalf continues to be a valued Canadian Blood Services partner, as they help patients cross the finish line to health through their recruitment events and youth engagement.

Mary is still looking for her one match, but she has definitely found the OtherHalf.