What started as a carefree family vacation for 32-year-old Francis Asis of Milton turned into the fight of his life.
While on a cruise in March 2016, Francis began feeling fatigued and had minor difficulties swallowing.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” says Francis. “As a parent of two young kids, I’m always on the go, so it’s normal to be a little tired.”
On the day he arrived home, Francis and his wife rushed their seven-month-old son to the emergency department in Mississauga because of breathing difficulties. During the week they spent at the hospital, Francis began to experience chest pains. After undergoing a series of tests, Francis was eventually transferred to Toronto, where he was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer – acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Francis endured a month of chemotherapy to force his cancer into remission and prepare his body for a stem cell transplant. His sister was a perfect match and he was hoping to have the transplant as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there was a long waitlist for a hospital bed.
“It’s a terrible situation to be in,” explains Francis. “You know you’re dying and the care teams want to help you, but they don’t have a bed. You have no choice but to wait.”
Francis was preparing to undergo a transplant in the United States, but that became unnecessary after he received a phone call that would change the course of his life.
“There was an opening at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre in Hamilton and I could be admitted within a week. This was a huge blessing.”
He underwent a successful stem cell transplant in June 2016. Francis had such a great experience at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre that he chose to remain there for his post-transplant care rather than returning to Toronto.
“This journey has given me a more positive outlook on life. I don’t need to be afraid of tomorrow, thanks to my stem cell transplant.”