Jahnis Gillan and her husband Jeff have explored most of the world together; to celebrate her 50th birthday they decided to embark on an African Safari. It was everything they dreamed it would be until Zimbabwe, where Jahnis began experiencing a series of fevers and night sweats.
When they arrived home to Toronto these symptoms continued, leading Jahnis to believe she had picked up a case of the flu or malaria, but after checking in with her doctor she received a diagnosis far worse. Jahnis' symptoms were warnings of a terminal leukemia, and was given just weeks to live without treatment.
After running a number of tests and a bone marrow biopsy, Dr. Andre Schuh provided the final diagnosis of ‘CML in blast crisis’ and admitted Jahnis to The Princess Margaret the very next day to begin chemotherapy.
The outlook was bleak, Jahnis was told she would need a bone marrow transplant to prevent the leukemia from returning – the only tangible option for such an aggressive disease. And without any children or siblings, the chances of finding a donor were slim.
“Bone marrow transplants can be very dangerous, but it was a no brainer for me; without this there was a 100% chance I would die.”
Hope sent from overseas
The Princess Margaret team was worked around the clock with Canadian Blood Services to identify a match from a global stem cell donation list, and against all odds the worldwide search located a match in Germany. On August 2, 2018 Jahnis Gillan received a bone marrow transplant that gave her a second chance at life.
On the road to recovery, Jahnis battled numerous infections and lost close to 40lbs, but refused to give up and continued to show a ferocious will to live, working five days a week with the on-site physiotherapist to gain strength.
On August 2, 2020, two years after a successful bone marrow transplant, Jahnis received an email from her donor. Her name was Yvonne Schoene and she lived in Germany.
Jahnis and Yvonne have written to one another every single day since, and as soon as it is safe to travel, Jeff and Jahnis plan to release their quarantined travel bug and head to Germany. That way they can thank Yvonne in person for saving Jahnis’ life.