Gerri Corcoran says Colin MacPhee has become like a son to her.
But even before the Anglo Rustico, P.E.I., woman met the young man from Ontario, there was something connecting them — two years ago, MacPhee donated his stem cells to Corcoran to help her fight leukemia.
Donations are usually anonymous, unless the donor and recipient want to meet each other. You have to wait a year to request a meeting, and Corcoran learned her donor was interested after that year had passed.
"They gave me the contact for the donor, come to find out he's a young gentleman for Ottawa, Ontario. It was so exciting," Corcoran said.
"We ended up doing FaceTime and then when the borders opened ... in August this year, [we were] able to make a quick trip to meet them in Ottawa."
"I don't think she gave me a choice," MacPhee said.
"She said 'I'm coming down to meet you and I can't wait to give you one of our P.E.I. hugs.' I couldn't refuse that."
The two and their respective families met on P.E.I. this Thanksgiving, which also happened to be the second anniversary of the transplant.
MacPhee said he didn't expect anything like this would happen when he signed up to become a donor.
"I got on the list because I just wanted to impress a girl at my university. It worked," he said.
"Four years later I received the call, which I completely forgot about. Canadian Blood Services told me I was a match and that somebody was in need and you're the only person that can help, so I was more than willing to help."
"Once they told me what the whole procedure and how easy it was, how could I not?"
'Emotional roller coaster'
MacPhee said he could relate to Corcoran's battle with cancer as his mother, Nancy, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma around the same time he decided to become a donor.
"It was quite an emotional roller coaster in our house, Colin donating his stem cells and I may be needing them in the future as well," Nancy said.
She underwent six months of chemotherapy and is currently having treatment to keep the cancer at bay.
Nancy said the special bond between her son and Corcoran is "quite special."
"Now I have to share him," she said.
"[Corcoran] feels like a member of the family," Colin MacPhee said. "She's amazing and I could not think of someone who deserves this more."
Corcoran said MacPhee is "an incredible young man." She said she hopes their story inspires more people to donate stem cells.
"If we can save one life by a young person giving or donating stem cells, that would be amazing," she said.
"If we can get the word out there to donate, that's what both Colin and I would really like."