It’s 2015 and I am doing my happy dance! It’s been 20 years since my bone marrow transplant for my chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and I am still here enjoying what life brings my way.
When I was first told that I had leukemia, I was overwhelmed with all types of emotions, but hope prevailed when I heard my doctor state, “Your only cure is a bone marrow transplant.” At that moment, the blinders went up and I went forward. Neither of my brothers were a match, so we turned to the National Bone Marrow Registry. First try, the system came up with 99 possibilities, with them narrowing down the search to four and then one. In 1995, a complete stranger donated his marrow and I had a second “birthday.”
The road to recovery has had some highs – getting to meet my donor a year after the transplant, having Dr. Brian Druker come into The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's First Connection meeting to talk about a study drug that was showing real possibilities. And, seeing a fellow member of First Connection become part of the study group and eventually to see the medication (Gleevec) approved. I have to admit, there have also been some bumps along the way from side effects of the transplant - cataracts, bone loss in my hip and a heart attack in 2010. However, all of these obstacles have been treatable – minor surgery for the cataracts, a stint for my heart and a hip replacement just last year. I will become that bionic woman yet!
Over the years, I have tried to give back, so through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program, I have completed four half marathons. I walk -- running is not a word in my vocabulary. I have seen first-hand how the money I have raised has helped to create new drugs. BUT, even as I reach this milestone in my life, I know that we still need to do more to wipe out blood-related cancers, so I have signed up again for a half marathon through the Team In Training program and have set my highest money goal yet. And, if I make that goal, I plan to shave my hair off – ALL of it! I have been bald once, why not do it again for such a great cause?