Members of the Mississauga community are asking the South Asian community to assist Justice Manjusha Pawaji. A special “cheek swabbing event” is being held at the Hindu Heritage Centre in Mississauga on Sunday from 10am until 5pm, where volunteers hope to find a genetic match to Pawaji.
The 47 year old Pawaji was born in the Indian state of Maharashtra, who immigrated to Canada years ago. She studied family law in school, and became one of the youngest foreign born family lawyers in the Greater Toronto Area. Pawaji also devotes extra time to helping the Children’s Aid Society, where she helps foster parents take in children.
But now, Pawaji is the one that needs help. Three months ago, she was diagnosed with a very serious case of leukaemia, and underwent two rounds of chemotherapy to combat the disease. But medical experts believe a stem cell transplant derived from the bone marrow or umbilical cord blood from someone with similar genetics could significantly improve Pawaji’s chances of beating the leukaemia.
Unfortunately, the odds are not looking great. Pawaji’s doctors estimate her odds of finding a viable match are low, possibly due to the low number of South Asian born Canadians registering in medical databases.
As a result, many of Pawaji’s friends came up with the cheek swab event to reach members of the community that never considered becoming a donor. The small group received support from Canadian Blood Services whose spokesperson Mary-Lynn Pride, says the cheek swab event should help increase the number of donors from Canada’s underrepresented populations.
“We have to get the message out to the community that there is a need for donors. This is really education that needs to get out to the community.”
Pawaji’s team is promising a special event at the Hindu Heritage Centre which in addition to the cheek swabs will also provide food, donor education discussions, stem cell transplant experts, and much more. As for Pawaji herself, her hope is that one of the cheek swabs will match her genetics, lead to a stem cell transplant, and potentially improve her leukaemia.