Ritzy was diagnosed with a very rare form of AML, chromosomal fusion of 7/11 in January of 2014. The only documented cases were found in Asia, and the only documented case of survival involved a transplant. She was lucky that she lived in Florida at the time, which has a Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic was the first place to treat this form of AML before, so she was in good hands. She started chemo the day she was diagnosed. They started looking for donors — the doctors were convinced they’d need to go search overseas. They had already started doing paperwork to search in Asia, when they found out they had 2 matches in the USA. I, Machiko, ended up being one of them.
Machiko: I registered as a part of Janet Liang’s campaign. I found out in February or so from a phone call that I was one of the potential matches. After many blood tests, I was still awaiting whether I’d be chosen or not. At the time, my uncle in Japan was suffering from leukemia as well. He had survived a transplant from my mother, but passed away in May. The night after my uncle’s funeral, I got a call from Be the Match that I was chosen as the ultimate match for who I now know is Ritzy. I’m glad I got to tell my uncle that I’d be a donor to someone like him, before he passed away.
Today: Even though I thought I knew so much about cancer and leukemia from both mine and my mom’s and my uncle’s experiences, I still had so much to learn when I met Ritzy in person. That cancer treatment is so hard on the body’s cells, but also the brain. How recovery is hard when your brain’s not working the same. How friends, family, and even your job that support your treatment and recovery are crucial.