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Alumna is one in a million

by Antonia Zerbisias, The Toronto Star | June 16, 2014

Manjusha Pawagi, BA'90
Manjusha Pawagi, BA'90

Her many friends and colleagues say Manjusha Pawagi, BA'90 (English Lang/Lit), is one in a million.

In fact, according to her genetic markers, this highly accomplished Toronto wife, mother, family court judge, and award-winning children’s book author, is more like one in 110 million.

That’s roughly the population of the Indian state of Maharashtra, where Pawagi was born 47 years ago. And it could even signal the odds — 110 million to one — of her finding a genetic match to help her survive leukemia, which was diagnosed in April.

If her current, and second, punishing month-long round of chemo succeeds, she has a 50-50 chance. But with a stem cell transplant — a process that would not be much more invasive for the donor than giving blood — her odds increase dramatically, 65 to 35.

In Canada, hundreds of patients, many of them children, go without a needed transplant and an estimated 20 die every day.

“That’s why I kind of don’t feel bad doing an aggressive drive for a donor, because people give blood all the time,” Pawagi says on the eve of her return to the cancer ward at Sunnybrook hospital. “I am not asking for a kidney or a part of someone’s liver.”

Currently, about 24 million people are registered worldwide. All it takes is a painless cheek swab. When somebody needs a match, every single one of 71 databases is scoured. And, when contacted, every registrant can withdraw at any time.

Read the complete story: The Toronto Star

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