Being in a very close-knit family, we were devastated upon learning of our sister Madeline’s diagnosis of AML. There were 4 of us girls and all 3 of us wanted to do anything to help our sister survive. Our biggest challenge was staying positive and offering her and her family support. The 3 of us were tested and I was her perfect match. I was overjoyed to be able to do this for her. Although my other sisters felt let down that they weren’t, we were all constant support through her journey. Our extended family of nieces and nephews were also devastated but played a very important part in supporting the family through many prayers, phone calls, and visits, etc.
When I found out that I was the match, I heard many false rumours of how hard it would be on me pain wise, it could also be harmful to my well-being. Nevertheless, it did not alter my plan. The important thing was to help my sister.
My first encouragement came from her family who set me straight on the path of stem cell transplant and how it was done. Then I met with the oncologist and he explained the procedure and what I would have to do before this took place (blood work, bone marrow biopsy, and my general health), which I passed with flying colours and gave me a very positive attitude. The procedure also included some injections for a week before to increase my stem cells.
It was very similar to dialysis. They accessed blood from my right arm which went through a machine that took out the stem cells and plasma, then my blood was injected back to my left arm, a procedure that lasts about 6 hours. The next day, Madeline received this through a port in about 30 mins. What a joyous occasion that was. We were so filled with hope. I am sharing this because I would like everyone to know that it is not a painful procedure, it is life-giving, and it certainly inspires hope.
Three months later, we had our annual family reunion (over 50 people) in the form of a family campout at our son’s home in the country where we celebrated her new life. There were a lot of times in the past year where we came close to losing her, and at times like those, the family picks up the slack to give them courage and strength. Unfortunately, Cancer won, and we lost her a few months later. But the memories of all special times with her will always remain in our hearts. On the anniversary of the stem cell a year later, I received a beautiful letter from the family thanking me for what I had done. They said I had given them something they couldn’t – that was HOPE and a little more time with her. I guess that was my purpose.
All of us have been changed in one way or another through all of this. We have learned from Madeline's strength and courage to accept all the pain, infections, chemo, etc., and never take life for granted. She never complained. We all experienced many emotions, we all laughed together, cried together, and remained supportive of each other.
We continue to donate blood every 3 – 4 months in her name to support The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, also through the Light The Night walk and monetary donations because of the support that they give us. This is extremely important to me and I encourage people to be donors of stem cells.