Transplant patient’s incredible story of perseverance

Meaghan MacArthur had been sick since she was 16 years old. A liver transplant in her hometown of Montreal helped, but the immunosuppressant drugs required to keep her body from rejecting the donated organ came with many risks, including infection. As an elementary school teacher, she was at particular risk. “Working with small children means being exposed to viruses,” says Meaghan.
“But teaching was my life. It’s what I love and what I focused on.”

In 2010, Meaghan moved to Toronto to start her Master’s degree. But the August before classes were to start, she fell ill. “I was in Toronto General Hospital for three solid weeks,” recalls Meaghan. “That’s when I met Dr. Levy and the transplant team.” Knowing the risks of immunosuppressants, Dr. Levy created a plan to reduce the number of pills Meaghan was on. “I thought 16 pills a day was normal,” she says. “Dr. Levy was able to take me down to one pill a day!”

Meaghan got out of hospital just in time for her first day of class. Her perseverance has taken her through many ups and downs including battles with lymphoma. Even though her treatment for lymphoma was at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Dr. Levy stayed actively involved in her care. “It was world class care, but very small town in some respects,” says Meaghan. “Everybody knows everybody and the teams work together. I had such confidence throughout the whole thing.”

To battle the aggressive lymphoma, Meaghan needed the highest level of chemotherapy possible, followed by a stem cell transplant. Fortunately, there was a silver lining – the stem cells took, and building her immune system back from the ground up tricked her body into thinking the transplanted liver was her own. “I have been off immunosuppressants for almost a year,” says Meaghan. “I don’t take anything!” Now 31 years old, Meaghan has finished her Master’s degree, and continues to be followed closely by Dr. Levy.

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