A Patient's Experience with Unrelated Bone Marrow Transplant for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Karmen Nizi
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

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My name is Karmen Nizi and I had just recently had unrelated bone marrow transplant. To start off from the very beginning:

I was originally diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in 1991, and being only 16 years old I was terrified. At that age the doctors all considered me as an adult and decided that I could handle the *bad* news all alone. I believe that no one, regardless of their age, could take such news alone! After going through a period of denial and anger, I knew that this was a part of my life that I would have to live with. So with the support from family and friends, I began my two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In August of 1993, I was declared in full remission. You can believe me, that was one of the happiest days of my life. The oncology nurses even gave me a diploma for my achievement.

Unfortunately, in May of 1994, I had to face a relapse. To me it seemed that God was punishing me all over again. I thought that I could never go through another two years of treatment. As a result, that was not an option that I had. The doctors explained to me that my body has been given the maximum dose of chemotherapy that it could take. And for me to stay in another remission without a relapse was very unlikely.

So immediately I became a candidate for a Bone Marrow Transplant. The search for an unrelated donor began, being that my two brothers (siblings; the best possible match) were perfect matches for each and not me. I was very lucky to find a donor as quickly as I did, considering that there is only about a 20% chance to get a perfect unrelated match.

December of 1994 came around rather quickly, and my official date for the transplant was set for December 8,1994. I still remember that night waiting in my room with my parents and brother. Of course the marrow had arrived late, and all I knew about the donor was that the marrow had taken two flights to get to me. You can imagine of all the places we came up with that it might have came from. Oh, by the way, I was in Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. I am originally from Edmonton, Alberta but moved to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario in the summer of 1985.

Today I am feeling pretty good, though I still do have some rough days. But look at it this way, "Everyone has a bad day or two ". I guess what I am trying to say is that there is hope at the end of that dark tunnel!

All I am waiting for now, is the day that I can meet that great person who basically gave me a second chance at life. And soon enough that day will come - December 8th will definitely be special!

One little message that I would like to leave to all those BMT patients, "The doctors always said that the day of your transplant is day ONE". So twenty years from now when someone asks how old I am, I'll be telling them the truth that I am only 20 years old! (HA HA)

Karmen Nizi


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