Perfect stem cell match
Jocelyn McGlynn is an aspiring doctor in her fourth year of medical science at Western University in Canada. When she began to experience symptoms of strep throat, she went to the doctor for treatment, but the strep throat didn’t seem to go away, even after weeks and two negative tests for strep. In November of 2018, after blood tests, she was diagnosed with Acute Myelomonocytic Leukemia (AMML).
Her doctor suggested a stem cell transplant to restore Jocelyn’s healthy bone marrow after her chemotherapy. Her brothers Maxx and Zach had a 25% chance of matching, but that was far from a guarantee and sparked her mother, Jacqueline, to go to Facebook for help. “We’re hoping that something can come through for Jocelyn or some other people,” she had said. “Bone marrow transplant tends to scare people owing to the belief that is a painful procedure… The truth is that there have been advancements; they literally harvest stem cells from a healthy person and return the balance of the blood to the donor. There is no pain and it is just like giving blood; you get your blood right back minus the stem cells that will be transplanted.”
Blood drives and swab clinics were held in Canadian cities of London, Windsor, and her hometown of Chatham. The response was overwhelming. The Western Stem Cell Club, one of the participating organizations, held a record-breaking event gathering 767 swabs. Jocelyn’s close friend Olivia Pomajba commented, “I thought it was going to be an uphill battle trying to convince people to sign up for this, but after they realized what was going on, people were so excited and so willing to sign up.” Her support spread beyond these three cities, reaching other universities and students that supported her as well.
Stem cell therapy can allow a patient to undergo more intense chemotherapy drugs for treatment. Chemo can kill much of the bone marrow, which is used to create new blood cells, so only a limited amount can be used. With stem cells, however, those drugs can be used in stronger doses to kill the cancer while limiting the risk for infections, bleeding, and other serious side effects associated with a low blood cell count.
Finally, on February 7th, Jocelyn made an announcement on Facebook that she had found a perfect stem cell match, simultaneously expressing her gratitude and desire to help others. “Thank you so much for following my journey… for walking alongside me through it and strengthening me,” Jocelyn said. “Your thoughts, your prayers, your positivity; I can feel them every day… Thank you so much for everyone who’s helped make my bad news into something good. I feel like we’re going to help a lot of people with that.”
Jocelyn’s stem cell transplant will take place on February 20th. If you would like to follow along with her story, see her Facebook