by Carol Thompson
On April 21, City of Hope will host thousands of hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) survivors, family members and friends for the 30th anniversary of the “Celebration of Life” Reunion. Among the attendees will be Mushtaque Jivani, the longest surviving recipient of a transplant at City of Hope.
Thirty years after becoming the first survivor of a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope Cancer Center, Jivani remains an inspiration for thousands of cancer patients.
It was 1976 when Jivani, a young college student in Indiana, received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. His physician told him he should prepare himself for inevitable death. But Jivani’s cousin, a physician in Los Angeles, knew that City of Hope had recently launched an HCT program. She urged Jivani’s family to contact the cancer center.
Jivani arrived at City of Hope believing that the highly investigational HCT procedure would be his only hope for survival. In his favor, Jivani had 10 siblings, increasing his chances for a perfect donor match. After doctors identified several brothers as potential donors, Jivani underwent the HCT, becoming the sixth patient at City of Hope to undergo the procedure and hoping to become the first survivor.
Jivani endured high-dose chemotherapy, three hours of full in body radiation and a month of complete isolation. Jivani and the entire HCT staff were thrilled when he started to produce healthy marrow cells and began the path to recovery.
In December 1977, Jivani celebrated the first anniversary of his transplantation. His survival represented a landmark occasion and symbolized enormous hope in the battle against cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Jivani has enjoyed a healthy and active life. In 1991, he ran the Los Angeles Marathon. Later, he became a long-distance bicyclist. Today, at 57, he stays fit with yoga, enjoys time with family and friends and is an avid world traveler.
Reflecting on the advances of stem cell research, Jivani said, “Each day, there are new cancer patients who ask: “Will I survive? Will I have a normal life after the HCT?” Thanks to City of Hope’s commitment to research and its mission to care for each of us with compassion, patients are able to receive the answer they so long to hear: “Yes, it is possible to survive. Yes, it is possible to live a normal life. I am living proof of that.”