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When Kyle Bosfet of Saint John met his true love in 2011, he had no idea she would end up helping save his life. Kristen Arsenault was a laboratory technologist specializing in leukemia and bleeding disorders at Horizon's Saint John Regional Hospital.

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Kyle and Kristen met on an internet dating site in July 2011. Drawn together by a mutual love of techno dance music and board games like Ticket to Ride, within a week the two were inseparable. Kyle lived in Grand Bay and Kristen on Saint John's west side.

On their first date, Kristen, a self-diagnosed hypochondriac, sensed something wasn't right with Kyle. While meeting for drinks at the Big Tide Pub in uptown Saint John, Kristen's suspicions were aroused by his unexplained bruises and lack of appetite. Initially, like Kyle's uneaten fries, she set aside her anxieties but in short order, shared them with her new date.

"I basically bugged him and bugged him to go get his blood done," she says. Because of her experience as a lab technologist, she feared the worst. "I deal with leukemia every day, so that's automatically what came to my mind. I said you need to go at least get this checked out."

Kyle was blasé about his girlfriend's concerns, choosing not to believe his symptoms could be anything serious. After all, he was 21 and in great shape. "I'm physically active and I work for a living. I play sports, so bruises, that's not a big deal for me," says Kyle. He also came from a family with the unwritten rule that "you never go to the doctor unless your bones are hanging out."



October 4, 2011 was a warmish fall day in the Port City as many Saint Johners went about their business, unaware of the drama that was about to unfold for the young lovebirds.

All Kristen could think about at work that day was Kyle. Kyle just wanted to get his bloodwork done to rule out anything serious and to put Kristen's fears to rest.

Early that afternoon, his family physician called Kyle to return to his office to discuss the results. With Kristen at work and his parents away, Kyle made the short but anxious drive to his appointment alone. If there was any consolation to what was to come, Kyle was comforted by thoughts of the close relationship he has enjoyed since childhood to his doctor, Dr. Dan Scott, and his doctor's wife, Kim, head nurse of the practice. Kim and Dr. Scott are Kyle's best friend's mom and step-dad.

It was Kim who delivered the news to Kyle. Emotions in the room were strong as Kim fought back tears.

"It was hard on them too," he says.


Recalling that day, Kyle likens his reaction to a movie he would later see called "50/50." The main character receiving a cancer diagnosis has the sensation of being enveloped in a strange fog, causing him to "zone out."

"It's like a haze and you don't remember anything," Kyle recalls. "It's like someone hits you with a blanket and you don't hear anything for a while."

As Kyle struggled to absorb the unforgiving news, Kristen was about to find out.

"When I had come back from lunch they had received his sample and they were trying to deal with it before I came back so I wouldn't be upset," Kristen remembers. The normal white blood count is between four and 11. Kyle's was 190. Kristen felt helpless.

"I just kind of froze," says Kristen. "There wasn't much I could do at that point. I just had to wait for the haematologist to look at it to see what kind of leukemia it was."

That, and check her phone every 10 seconds for a message from Kyle. If he didn't know the results by the time Kristen came to see him after work, Kristen, because of her position at the hospital, was not permitted to tell him.

Kyle, alone with the news, paced the floors of his parents' empty home, desperately wanting to talk to someone. He called his two best friends in Halifax for some much-needed consoling.

Kristen, on pins and needles all that day, tried to remain focused on the job. The familiar sound of an incoming text pinged and Kristen snatched her phone.

"It's not looking good," the text read. To Kristen, the words were a relief in a strange way, but devastating. She had already known the dire news but now she could help him to process it, girlfriend to boyfriend.

 "After work I went over to his house and then he told me - I already knew. We just cried."

"His parents didn't get home for almost a week, so we had to wait to tell them," Kristen recalls. "That was pretty awful."

Kyle, not wanting to needlessly spoil his parents' Las Vegas vacation, waited to give them the news in person when they returned.



A week after Kyle's parents returned, they accompanied him on his first appointment with Hematologist Dr. Terrence Comeau. It was then that Kyle got the specific diagnosis: CML - Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, caused by a mutation in his 22nd chromosome. The mutation is known as the Philadelphia Chromosome. Dr. Comeau described the case as unusual because of Kyle's young age at onset of the disease. The median age at diagnosis is usually people in their 60's.

"It is very fortunate that Kristen was so persistent and encouraged him to have his blood tested," says Dr. Comeau.  "Most young men would ignore their symptoms and run the risk of presenting with end-stage disease which can be very difficult to treat, let alone cure."

Like a locomotive in Ticket to Ride, things were picking up steam, and fast.

Kyle's bone marrow was tested to determine his candidacy for a new trial drug if it came back positive. It did. Tasigna is like a new silver bullet suggesting 98 per cent five-year survival rates for patients with CML.

"The first year was a roller coaster," Kristen recalls.

Sometimes it felt like clinging to the underside of a boxcar on a runaway train. It looked like the wonder drug was losing its effectiveness and the bone marrow transplant card was about to be played.

"His sister got tested to see if she was a match and luckily, she was," says Kristen.

In Halifax, doctors decided to delay the transplant to allow the drug more time to work. The call paid off. It did its job, and with very little side effects.

"He said it made his hair fall out but he's balding anyways," chuckles Kristen.



It had been a long ride over a short period of time, one for which perhaps Kristen could be forgiven for asking to be let off at the next stop.

"I never once thought that for a second. That's when I knew that he was the one," Kristen says with a smile.

Kyle would have understood if Kristen had wanted to disembark.

"I said, 'We're brand new. You don't have to deal with this. If you want a family I don't know what I can do for you. I don't know about the pills. The side effects'," he says.

Kyle is forever grateful that Kristen was on board for the entire journey.

Kristen says it strengthened their relationship.

"I definitely think it brought us closer together because we knew then that if we could survive that then we could get through anything," she said.



On May 22, 2013, Kristen Arsenault became Mrs. Kyle Bosfet. Doctors were unsure whether the couple could have children naturally. Even if they could, Kristen was terrified about what the drugs might do to the developing baby. But still brighter days were waiting around the next turn. On March 6, 2016, their son Kohl was born, healthy and happy and destined to carry on the very rare Bosfet name.

Whether a boy or girl, Kyle always wanted children and with only three people on the planet who bear the name, "having a son is pretty substantial to our family," he says.

As for his relationship with Kristen, Kyle calls her his best friend and says he owes her everything: "I can't say for sure but more than likely, if I hadn't met her, I'd be in much worse shape or dead."

Surviving leukemia for eight years has taught Kyle to savour every moment, knowing he's living on "borrowed time." But he believes it's had more of a change on those around him, especially his parents who taught him the importance of saving every penny for retirement. Now, they travel the world.

And Kyle and Kristen are carrying on the family tradition. Kyle vacations away at least twice a year with the family. He works hard as an electrician and Kristen continues to work at Horizon's Saint John Regional Hospital. Kyle finds keeping physically active is a good way to gauge any ups or downs in his health. Now if he notices a change, he'll make an appointment to see his doctor. His advice: "It can't hurt to get your bloodwork done."

The couple are grateful for the tremendous medical care they've received throughout the journey and thankful Kristen trusted her initial instincts. Dr. Comeau appreciates Kristen's persistence in encouraging Kyle to get his bloodwork done.

"Studies now are showing that patients presenting early and started on treatment early in the disease may eventually be cured of their disease and may be able to stop taking the anti-leukemia medication," he says.

"I know that none of this would have been possible if it had not been for the early detection and treatment of his disease," Kristen says. "I feel like it was fate or something that brought us together."

Kyle agrees: "I might not even be here."






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