A Lakehead University student with leukemia has received some potentially life-saving news.

Doctors have found a stem cell donor for Moneet Mann, a 24-year-old who was diagnosed with leukemia last year.

The diagnosis came about a month after Mann began feeling tired and dizzy and noticed bruises on her body.

"I just lost all control of my emotions. I just started crying. Tears just kept flowing. I wasn't hearing a single word that [the doctor] was saying any more. Nothing was resonating with me,” said Mann, who studies education at Lakehead.

“It was horrible. It just felt like such a nightmare."

Chemotherapy put the disease into remission, but doctors told Mann her bone marrow was still not producing red and white blood cells properly, so she'd need a transplant.

She has two older sisters and one younger brother, but none of them were a match. 

Since patients are more likely to find a donor in their own ethnic community, Mann began a social media campaign in January called "Will You Marrow Me" to reach out to the South Asian community and urge them to sign up to the donor registry.

She said she also wanted to raise awareness and help other people in her situation too.

Social media was also a good way to target the age group they needed. Appeals for help appeared on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as broadcast on radio and published in newspapers in the Brampton-Toronto area.

Educating her audience

The outpouring of support was amazing, Mann said. 

"I had so many parents calling me saying 'Oh my god, I don't even know what we'd do if this was my own daughter.  We want to do whatever we can to help you.'" 

The biggest challenge was just getting information out to the community, and challenging the misconceptions about the procedure, she said.

"They thought it was a surgical procedure and they'd be hospitalized and they thought that there would be severe side effects and everything." 

Hailu Mulatu of Canadian Blood Services said there are currently about 335,000 potential stem cell donors in Canada, and the agency can access a global database of approximately 22 million.

Even with that, finding a match can take a long time, he said.

According to Canadian Blood Services web site, less than three per cent of potential stem cell donors in Canada are of South Asian heritage.  

Mann said she's overwhelmed with the outcome in the search to find her match.

“I just felt like so much weight had been lifted,” she said.

“The dark cloud disappeared over my head and everything just started looking so much more brighter and this just brought a whole new role of positivity into my life."

Mann will meet with the transplant centre later this month to plan her next steps.