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Inspirational Stories

Tina

chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

Prospect, CT

Today I am CELEBRATING!! AHHHHH, SO BLESSED!!! It’s been 20 years since my leukemia diagnosis! I am celebrating because of so many reasons!

I am celebrating God’s mercy, grace, and miracles! You see, just three months before my diagnosis, the first-ever, molecular target anti-cancer drug, Gleevec, was born. It was proved years later to have a 92% success rate compared to the old treatments that had 20% success along with much worse side effects. A bone marrow or stem cell transplant was an option for a cure, but I had no matches in my family or on the national registry. Otherwise, life expectancy was 3 to 5 years.

Side note: please become a donor. It’s easy as a cheek swab. Over 70% of blood cancer patients rely on you. (BeTheMatch.org)

I am also celebrating that I insisted to my doctor during my checkup that something was wrong, and before just putting me on antidepressants, I asked her to do any tests that she could. Well, I was diagnosed that night with a white cell count well over 300,000. The normal range is 3,000-10,000. (Be responsible for your health! Do not be afraid to be proactive with your doctors and nurses. SPEAK UP.)

I was on this life-saving oral chemo every single day for 11 years and persevered on my journey to feel well enough to thrive in every area of my life. There were lots of side effects.

I am celebrating that I had my Mary Kay business, not only to continue to make a living for me and my kids since I was single at the time, but it also brought me joy and had already taught me the power of positive thinking and a strong attitude. It wasn’t easy.

I am celebrating that I researched and forged ahead, even though the experts said to stay on Gleevec forever, to finally go off treatment with a specialist in New York City. I took train rides to the city every four weeks and then graduated to further visits (I’m still getting tested every three months from home).

So, yes, I am celebrating! Only half of the patients stay in remission after treatment. February 8 will mark nine years that I have been in treatment-free remission!

So, I am here to celebrate, but more importantly, I am here to spread hope and encouragement. No longer is leukemia or cancer a death sentence. There are so many cutting-edge treatments. Your doctors don’t even know about them unless they are directly involved. I participated in a few that were very positive experiences. Oh, the people I got to meet!

Oh, yes, I am celebrating that this October 5, almost 20 years ago, that Rick, the most amazing man in the world, the wind beneath my wings, married me even though I was sick and my future was so iffy.

So, today I am celebrating this amazing milestone. I have had all these bonus years to love my family and friends (my three daughters, the best of friends). I’ve been able to learn, grow, mentor amazing women, and give back by volunteering. I am also a grandmother, times five so far. I am so blessed to spend time with the greatest mom and best friend, my almost 96-year-old mother! And so, the story continues.

TS