Leukemia patient celebrates five years of survival, gives back to those who helped her

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In San Francisco, a birthday celebration with a twist for a 15-year-old girl who knows how fortunate she is to be here. And now she's paying it forward.

Staff at the UCSF Medical Center Thursday got to finish their meals with a slice of birthday cake.

"I appreciate the thought of the cake," said 15-year-old Myla Cunanan of Alameda.

Some staff members, here, know Myla very well after a bone marrow transplant led to a very difficult recovery from a rare form of leukemia. That surgery happened five years ago, today, making this the most significant of survival anniversaries.

"Did you think you would see this day?" we asked her mother, Leyna Cunanan. "No."

And that is why they called this a re-birthday party for Myla along with all the people who took care of her.

"I mean you truly are a miracle child," exclaimed night nurse Curtis Wong when he hugged her.

"She has kind of gone through hell and back. Good to see her so well and happy," Curtis told us.

"There were times she would lie there and not say anything," said another nurse, Lana King.

This was more than a celebration. Myla and her family describe it as a call to action and an opportunity to talk about the need for people to register for the stem cell and bone marrow registry. Asian Americans are under-represented.

"My daughter and her family would like to help other families find a match," said Leyna.

"I'll do this the rest of my life if I need to," added Myla.

The older and wiser among us learn to never take a birthday for granted. That applies to Myla Cunanan as well.

To register as a potential stem cell donor: text MYLA to 61474

Or, you can register online.
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