Strength Beyond Words

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: May 13, 2011

by Lianne Castelino

This story has been on my mind for a few weeks now.  Two days ago it hit me square in the face.

A vibrant, successful, energetic mom of three experienced migraine symptoms during a long weekend in February (2011).  Nothing wildly unusual.  Millions of people suffer from migraines.  Except that for whatever reason, her husband decided to take her to the hospital and have her checked out.  A wise precautionary measure, one would assume.  The migraine symptoms came back as a stunning diagnosis.   Cancer.  A rare form of leukemia.

The Anagnostopoulos family — Cathy, Nick, Alex, Angela and Gregory — are reeling.  And have been since that shocking diagnosis on February 23, 2011.

Cathy, 44, a pharmacist by profession, deeply devoted wife and mom, needs a stem cell transplant to survive.  Doctors have not minced their words.

A first round of chemotheraphy family was described as a failure.  Cathy was then transferred to another hospital for 5 gruelling weeks of chemotheraphy — her body suffering punishing side-effects.  Her beautiful long dark hair, gone.

I first watched this story on Global News in Toronto and was moved to tears.  Then I read about it in the Toronto Star and left thinking — why, how.  It could be me.

A desperate search for a donor match is underway.  Every second so precious.   Various swabbing events have been organized to find a donor for a stem cell transplant that is Cathy's only hope.

A simple swab, from a total stranger, could save Cathy's life

The chances of a match from those with Greek or Mediterranean ancestry is slightly higher.  But that should not stop the rest of us.  You NEVER know.

During an interview with Cathy and her husband Nick, I was struck by their courage and strength.  Cathy for all that she has and continues to go through.  Nick for bravely taking care of his three young children day in and day out as his wife fights for her life.  For their children for trying to get through every second of everyday at school and wherever else knowing that their mom is battling.  For their family and friends for moving to action, despite their utter shock, even after all these months. 

It could be any of us.

Life is too

As a journalist, to this day, I am always disturbed by how a story on any given night can be the most important thing in the world/province/city —- called the “lead story” and then chances are you will never hear about it again.  How does that happen?

I've covered many stories over the years — murders, missing children, bodies found, fatal fires, death and destruction — and was always left wondering what happened to those families, those victims, those people.  The spotlight may dim, but their suffering does not.

There are hundreds of Canadians, thousands of Americans and millions of people worldwide who wait silently in hope of a life-saving transplant.

Imagine how loudly the seconds must tick on their clock.  Waiting, wondering, praying, hoping.

The Anagnostopoulos family feels powerless.  It must rely on the grace and kindness of strangers to find a match — to save a wife, mom and woman whose battle should move us all.

Swabbing Events



Video interview with Cathy Anganostopoulos by






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