“Any cancer diagnosis stops you in your tracks and forces you to re-evaluate what is most important in life,” says Natalie. “My family, friends and I were extremely shocked and in a state of disbelief when we heard the diagnosis. I exercised and was rarely sick. How could this happen? To this day, I still don’t know how I developed cancer.” - Natalie
In June 2016, 42 year old mother of two girls, Natalie Nojaim, had her world turned upside down. While on a family vacation in Mexico, Natalie became very sick, unable to catch her breath and lightheaded. A trip to a Mexico tourist hospital revealed her red blood cells and platelets were dangerously low. Leaving her family behind, Natalie rushed home to Arizona where she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a disease commonly found in children. She began induction chemotherapy immediately.
In addition to chemotherapy and radiation, Natalie’s doctors determined that she needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. With no related matches, Natalie’s only hope was finding an unrelated match on the donor pool.
John Kause is a 27 year old married father of one from Elmwood, IL. John is a groundskeeper for Elmwood Park Community Unit School District. Josh registered alongside his wife, at a St. Balderick’s event, in honor of his wife’s best friend, Michelle. Michelle was 16 years old and had been diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. She struggled but lost the battle when she was 19.
Josh never thought he would be a lifesaving match for anyone.
“When DKMS had called and sent emails repeatedly that I was a match I had thought it was just another telemarketer scam,” says Josh. He kept deleting email after email. His wife then reminded him of registering with DKMS. “The next day I called them back and got details of what I needed to do and we started the process,” says Josh.
Josh completed all the necessary medical examinations and was considered the best chance for Natalie. In October of 2016, he was then issued 4 figrastim injections by a visiting nurse to his home and on the fifth day, he went to the hospital for the stem cell removal procedure supported by his wife. Josh’s body built up so much white cells that he was in-and-out of the hospital in just 2 hours and 15 minutes. Usually, the procedure takes about 6-8 hours.
“I think it was about 3-5 days of just laying low and not really doing any heavy lifting,” says Josh. “My body finally was feeling back to normal and not wanting to explode.”
After a complete year following the transplant and mutual interest from both Natalie and Josh, DMKS released Natalie’s information to Josh. Josh went directly to google. He wanted to put a face to the name after so much anticipation. Natalie emailed Josh first. His heart started pounding when he saw Natalie’s email delivered. Josh couldn’t make it home to open Natalies’s email; he pulled over by a freight train and read the email. With tears of joy, he made it home that evening and wrote back to her.
On March 6th, 2018, when Hallmark Channel’s “Home and Family” show aired, featuring Natalie and Josh’s heartwarming and emotional introduction. Josh, an anonymous donor, was a perfect match for Natalie. She had a successful transplant procedure.
“Josh gave me the ultimate gift – a second chance at life – the ability to continue being a daughter, a wife and most importantly a mom to my two, beautiful, young children.”- Natalie