Debbie Chokelal - London

Debbie Chokelal

London ON

Don't Lose Hope


I was diagnosed in March 2019 with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, the biggest challenge was the unknown. I have known a lot of people with breast, brain, colon, lung, and pancreatic cancer, but had not heard a lot about blood cancers.

I had no idea what would be involved, the only thing I knew was I had to FIGHT!

I was told I would start my induction chemotherapy and would probably be in the hospital for 4-6 weeks. I was there for 40 days and had to have out-patient chemotherapy and was referred to the transplant team.

However, the out-patient chemotherapy didn’t put me in remission so I was readmitted to PMH on May 31, 2019, for a more aggressive round of chemo. My transplant date was postponed, but I was truly blessed that my unrelated donor said they could wait, and on July 23, 2019, I received my stem cell transplant.

From March to September 2019, I spent 152 days/nights at Princess Margaret Hospital. The care I received from amazing people was unbelievable which will be a part of me forever. Since my diagnosis, I have posted on Facebook not just to share my experience, but more importantly, to EDUCATE people about this horrible disease. I have had several friends and family donate blood now regularly and my posts have also inspired individuals to never lose hope. You have to fight to succeed.

Ultimately, It wasn’t just my life that changed, I have changed. First, you cannot let Cancer define you. You have to redefine yourself and that is okay. You can’t waste time figuring out why me? you won’t find the answer. I have learned a lot about what truly matters, to honestly not sweat the small stuff, If you say you are going to do something, DO IT. Listen to your body- it is an amazing thing and it is your opportunity to make your journey better than you expected.

I thought I lost myself, my identity, my independence, my being, But I have realized now that I am becoming a better person as a result of my experience.

My transplant felt horrible, I had every side effect even the rare ones. I was in the hospital for 70 days and when I was discharged, I went down to 104 pounds from 148. Still, I would not give up, I owed it to my unrelated donor, myself, family, and army of Deb supporters to fight and win. Even though my life will probably never be the same because of the fear of relapsing or secondary cancer, for now, I only focus on what I can control and what truly matters. I am okay with that.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada is the best-kept secret though I didn’t hear about them until months after my transplant. I was fortunate that Elinor from LLS Canada reached out to me and provided me with several links to review.

I will participate in the Light the Night as an annual event to honor survivors I know and roommates I lost to Leukemia as well as do volunteer work because I want to give back.

Do you have a story to tell?

As a supporter, in memory, or as a survivor… share with others why you are helping end blood cancers by participating in a Light the Night Walk