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Mai Duong, leukemia patient, opens up about remission

05/14/2015 07:22 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT
Mai Duong's struggle to find a donor to help treat her leukemia pulled at Quebec's heartstrings last year, and now, after receiving a stem cell graft, and going back into remission, she's opening up about her journey. 

When Duong found a compatible umbilical cord donor in September, it was with mixed emotions.

The Vietnamese-Montrealer had struggled to find a bone marrow donor because Héma-Québec has a shortage of Vietnamese donors.

The alternative umbilical cord treatment was not as ideal, but better than nothing.

With fingers crossed, she received the stem cell transplant in October.

Seven months later, she's in remission.

"I'm still knocking on wood, for sure … I'm always afraid to jinx it and to say, 'yah I'm fine, I'm totally fine.' I'm afraid the cancer is going to be back. I'm very hesitant."

Duong had been in remission for 10 months when her leukemia returned last time around.

"Being in remission is really great because it means that you're cancer free, but then again I was in remission and I relapsed. So the fact that cancer can be back at any time is a big fear."

Duong says she won't be considered cured of cancer until she's been in remission for five years.

Reunited with friends and family

She says dealing with the disease and being forced to spend months in isolation, away from her family, has helped her enjoy the small things.

"It's an amazing feeling to be back home, to be reunited with my daughter, my husband, my family and friends," she said.

She says even the smallest daily routines, such as brushing her daughter's hair or cooking, bring her a lot of joy.

As Duong focuses on her recovery, she's reminding people that a lot of other people are still searching for donors.

"The fact that my campaign really took off and people saw my face, they were compelled to help me. I'm grateful for [that], but there [are] a lot of people that you don't see. They have stories too and they still need help.

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