Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


January 23, 2014

Finding her match

Andover mother seeking stem cell transplant for daughter


As hoped, amazingly, the stranger has been completely cured.

It’s a story Habeeb, prays will be written again some day soon about her daughter, who is undergoing treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where she is dealing with the daily struggles of having the potentially deadly blood disorder.

Sheehan, who grew up in Methuen, is awaiting a stem cell transplant as opposed to bone marrow. The process of removing stem cells from an individual is much easier than bone marrow, which requires an overnight stay in the hospital and takes a long recovery for the donor, experts say.

Sheehan’s younger brother, Christopher Habeeb, was deemed a match and donated stem cells last summer. The process usually takes about 100 days before being considered a success. At Day 85, it failed, due to the presence of a bad gene (FLT3), which can make the leukemia worse.

Sheehan was back to square one.

“It’s not like having your appendix out and you deal with the pain or a certain part of your body,” Habeeb said last week. “This is your blood, all over your body. Every day is a new day with new challenges. ... (Monday) was a tough day. (Tuesday) was a better day. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been around.”

Currently, there is no match in the national registry for Sheehan.

Which brought Habeeb to Methuen on Saturday. Sheehan’s husband, Tim, and three children — Audrey, 13; Nicole, 11; and Ethan, 7 — also were on hand to support the event, which drew more than 100 potential donors to the registry.

The event lasted two hours. Unfortunately, people had to be turned away because of the short window.

“They say 70 is a lot,” Habeeb said of typical turnouts. “We were ecstatic about the support. We didn’t know many of the people. They heard about Cathy’s story and they came. I can’t explain how thankful we are.”

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