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Cancer Patient meets Bone Marrow Donor who
saved her life
Newswise, September 2010 — Ann Marie Del
Fiacco, a 38-year-old mother of two, owes
her life to a stranger who volunteered to be
a donor for her life-saving bone marrow
On Sunday, Sept. 12, Del Fiacco will meet
her donor, Brad Tacy, for the first time.
The meeting will occur at 2 p.m. at Loyola's
Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, 2160 S.
First Ave., Maywood, where Del Fiacco
underwent a successful bone marrow
transplant for an especially aggressive form
"I can't believe what he did for me. I'm a
total stranger," Del Fiacco said. "He's my
angel. He saved my life."
Tacy, 30, is flying in from his home in
Virginia, along with is wife, Lisa, and his
2-month-old son, Noah. He will meet Del
Fiacco, her husband, Jeff, and her sons
Michael, 17, and Gino, 12.
Dr. Patrick Stiff, director of the Bernardin
Cancer Center, said Tacy "is a hero, like
the fireman who pulls a person out of a
burning building. Because he donated his
cells, Ann Marie is alive today."
Tacy said he was inspired to become a donor
after seeing his boss' 10-year-old son
undergo a successful bone marrow transplant
for leukemia. Tacy said he feels "incredibly
happy" for Del Fiacco. "Anyone else in my
situation would have done the same thing."
Del Fiacco's first symptom of leukemia was
unusual fatigue -- by 6 p.m., she would be
asleep on the coach. That was followed by
two ear infections and a frightening episode
that felt like a heart attack.
"Her case was very difficult," said her
physician, Dr. Tulio Rodriguez. "The odds
were against her."
Prior to the bone marrow transplant, Del
Fiacco underwent two days of high-dose
chemotherapy and four days of whole-body
radiation. In the process of killing cancer
cells, the chemotherapy and radiation also
killed her immune system cells. To
compensate, Del Fiacco received an infusion
of Tacy's bone marrow cells. These donated
cells developed into healthy new immune
For a transplant to succeed, the patient
needs a close match. Del Fiacco's two
sisters offered to donate, but they did not
match. So Rodriguez went to the National
Marrow Donor Program, which has more than
eight million donors in its Be the Match
Registry®. Tacy was a perfect match.
To retrieve cells from Tacy, a doctor
inserted a needle in his pelvis and drew out
marrow. Tacy said that afterward, it felt
like a harsh bruise -- "nothing too bad." He
took a few days off work, but the hardest
part was not being able to play basketball
for a month.
Del Fiacco underwent the transplant in
April, 2005. She spent four weeks in the
hospital, then another three months at home
in isolation while her immune system was
regenerating. During that time, Del Fiacco
could not be around her children, for fear
they could give her infections. She would
talk to them on the telephone, or wave to
Today, Del Fiacco is cancer-free, and
Rodriguez said she essentially is cured.
"I feel great, and I am blessed," she said.