When Maria Carolina Basco Datoon's father came to Canada in the 60's, it was to find a better life for his family. It took eight years before Carol (as we know her) could join her family and be sponsored to Canada. Eight years of frugal living, letters, paperwork and struggle. Carol was 14 when she (and five siblings) arrived in Toronto and the family quickly settled in Brampton and Carol started high school.

In the Philippines, you are either rich or poor, says Carol. There is no middle class. Her family lived on the poor side of the equation and choose Canada as the opportunity to climb out of poverty.

This is a story like thousands and thousands of others... refugees and immigrants who select this country and work their way into its soul. Often I feel they have become its soul, with their appreciation and commitment.

Fast forward from 1976 to 2009... Carol is now 47. She and her husband, Joven, met in high school, married and have three children. Their youngest is 12. The oldest is 16. They moved to Barrie from Brampton for the same reason so many new residents come here... affordable housing, great lifestyle, and the opportunity to make their own way. While Carol started her own commercial cleaning business, Joven continues to drive to his job with the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) and the Datoon kids are growing up like other kids in Barrie, enjoying clean air and a ton of outdoor activities. I met Carol when she signed up for my business start-up program and began the official launch of her business activities.

Except for one thing. Carol's business is now on hold. Her body is getting weaker and weaker by the day. It started last year when an appointment with her Toronto doctor (no doctor in Barrie for the family) turned into tests and a reading of high blood platelets. Low hemoglobin. Bone marrow not producing blood cells. Pain, throughout her bones. Fatigue like never, ever before.

The short version of this story is that Carol is diagnosed with Myelofibrosis, a form of Leukemia. She needs a bone marrow transplant. And, it needs to come from a Filipino person. Not one of Carol's family is a match for her and the bone marrow registry for Canada has only 84 Filipino people on it. Not one is a match for Carol. It's often that a match doesn't come from a family member (contrary to popular thought) and it's become Carol's family's full time job to reach out in a country that's enormous and try to find the person with the cells that can give Carol new life.

Right now, she lives a life devoted to getting by. With her husband, she goes bi weekly to Toronto, to her doctor for tests, to Humber River Hospital for blood tests and spleen and liver tests. She takes two injections in her stomach every week, medicine that boosts her red blood cells and gives her a bit of energy for another few days. The cost of this medicine ($5500 a month) is a huge stress on her husband's medical plan and is limiting the family's hope for hope itself.

Meanwhile the hospital looks for a Filopino donor.

So, what does Carol need? She needs her firstcountrymen and women to go to www.onematch.ca
They register for bone marrow and stem cell donation.
They receive a kit to swab the inside of their mouth and send it back to the hospital.
The swab kit will be tested and in about one month they'll know if there's a match to anyone on the recipient list.

Suppose one Filopino is a match for Carol.
Here's what will happen...
They'll be contacted and told of the procedure. While it's not as easy as giving blood, it's not all that onerous when you consider you're giving someone life. A hospital visit, anesthetic, and a syringe withdraws stem cells from the donor's bone marrow. The procedure takes one to two hours. The donor will rebuild his or her stem cells in six weeks and will feel some muscle soreness for about a week.

At the same time as the donor is being prepared, Carol will be undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, to prepare her body to receive the bone marrow transplant. While stem cells are being withdrawn from the donor, Carol will be sedated in another room, waiting for the procedure that injects new life (literally) into her body. The transfer from donor to Carol will occur through Carol's chest.

Carol will remain in hospital in quarantine, isolated from any contaminants, while her body takes its new bone marrow and rebuilds itself. This will take one to two months.

And then the life of a mother, a wife, a business owner, an employer will pick up where it left off. One year later, Carol will be given permission to meet her donor.

So much rests on the hope that Filipinos receive the message and register on www.onematch.ca

As I spoke with Carol this week, it occurred to me that we should all register on this site. It's not until we come person to person with an individual we really care about... that's when this comes into full, tight, focus. The opportunity to make a life-giving difference in this world. Right now.

Carol, thank you for having the courage to tell your story. Thanks for your own generosity in how you live in this community you've chosen as home. I hope we can do a followup story that shows a big smile on your face and the faces of your children and husband.

Harinawa ay bumuti ang iyon kalusugan at kalagayan! (I wish you well!)

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