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Inspirational Stories

Shaun

Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, (Ph+ ALL)

Vienna, VA

On November 1, 2020, after three scary trips to the emergency room for excruciating back pain within two weeks, I was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, (Ph+ ALL). Sitting in the emergency room with my fiancée, I was at a loss of words. We never anticipated my pain to turn into our worst nightmare. We never thought cancer would enter our lives at 26, but we were faced with the reality that our lives had grown drastically different.

I was admitted the same day and began chemotherapy four days later. Eighteen days later, I was discharged from the Inova Fairfax hospital and finished my induction chemotherapy at the INOVA Schar Cancer Institute. The first few months were a blur, from chemotherapy to immunotherapy, and then promptly to a bone marrow transplant, my entire treatment process ended on June 11 after a bone marrow biopsy confirmed my transplant had been deemed a success. Throughout the nine months of treatment, there were many moments where we were afraid of the negative possibilities, not knowing what was around the corner, anxiously awaiting every bone marrow biopsy result, and most of all waiting to find out whether my sister would be a match for the transplant. Only having one sibling and minimal extended family, she was my silver bullet for a match. We were incredibly relieved to find that she was a full match.

The transplant process was difficult, possibly one of the hardest times I've faced. So much isolation from the world, especially with COVID-19 still being prominent. We spent over 70 days at Johns Hopkins for my transplant, away from the comforts of home with the uncertainty of my health looming over us. I don’t know what I would have done without my fiancée and family supporting me through it all.

I was and am extremely fortunate to have such a great medical team in Dr. Danielle Shafer and her NP Guinevere Lillie, as well as my transplant team at Johns Hopkins. Their confidence and diligence truly made this experience as pleasant as it could be. Despite the hardship, we are incredibly fortunate to have access to the best care.

This event has changed a lot about myself, my fiancée, and our outlooks on life and the future, I think for the better. Our perspective on what is important, our life together, and life as a whole have changed dramatically.

Today, I am still recovering from my transplant and have no evidence of disease. I am looking forward to the positive things in life marrying my fiancée, traveling, and experiencing life with the perspective that every moment counts.

SM