Stephanie Headley was diagnosed in 2002 with systemic scleroderma, an autoimmune disease characterized by the thickening of skin and eventual failure of organs.
Headley was told five years ago she had five years to live, but she found hope when she learned of a stem cell therapy available in the United States that has had success with other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis.
The procedure, performed by Dr. Richard Burt, an immunologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, cost $125,000 US and was not covered in Canada. But she was not deterred.
"I have one of the most aggressive forms and in fact am a miracle just sitting here... If I could battle this, there was something out there that could save me," she said.
Her family started to raise money online in May and had reached $13,000 in donations, but she said the disease began progressing and her father urged her to start the procedure without waiting to reach their fundraising goal.
'I fell to the ground, I cried'
On July 3, she got a phone call from a man who wanted to drop off a donation at her home. Ten minutes later, the man — wearing ski sunglasses and a hat to hide his face — wordlessly handed her an envelope and turned to leave.
"Just before he turned around I said, 'God bless you,' and he smiled. A big smile across his face. And he turned around and left," she said.
She then opened the envelope and saw the value of the bank draft.
"I'm looking at the decimals, I'm looking at the zeroes, I'm sure I've got it wrong. I fell to the ground, I cried, I screamed, I yelled. I just kept saying, 'Thank you God, thank you God, I'm going to live, I'm going to live,'" said Headley.
Headley didn't reveal the donation until Monday, after bank officials had confirmed the authenticity of the bank draft.
She said she is now scheduled to begin treatments on Sept. 22, and hopes to one day find out who he is.