From 62 to 6…Robert, this one is for you!

This has been an exciting year for me, and at the top of the list is being 6 years out from my stem cell transplant!  Six years ago today I was very sick.  All of the toxic chemo had kicked in and totally killed my bone marrow.  I had found out that my donor’s stem cells were on a flight to MD Anderson in Houston and , after being worked on in the lab all night, would be ready for me the next day.  This is an indescribable feeling only a survivor sister or brother would understand.  To be so sick, but to be incredibly hopeful and thankful!  To be a survivor five or ten years out seemed an eternity and unthinkable.  It was a time of living minute to minute.

Fast forward to April 17, 2017.  My phone rings at 6:00 A.M.and in my grogginess and realizing it was still dark, thought it must be some kind of emergency.  Nope, it was my son, Hayes, singing Happy Birthday to me!  That was oh so special and started my day out in the best way!  Throughout the day that I turned 62 years old,  I received wonderful cards and calls, signed up for social security ( hahaha!), and started thinking.  

Thought about how I no longer “think” like a sick person.  Ok, I still obsess on hand washing!  Thought about how I feel better than I have felt long before my diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome eleven years ago.  Thought about how I have my mojo back.  Thought about how I can run 3 miles in 30 minutes every day.  Thought about how incredibly blessed I am with good health, family, and my awesome husband, Wade, who loves me completely and wonderfully!  Thought about how it was all worth it!

Fast forward to last week when I had my 6 month appointment with Dr. Hosing at MD Anderson.  I love my appointments with her!  Her nurse, Kelly, is the best!   This time, when Dr. Hosing walked in, she said my blood work was so normal that we had no medical issues to talk about, so can we just visit?  Where have you travelled?  We chatted for a while, I hugged her neck, and thought about how much I love her.  And I thought about the perfect, expert, loving care she has given me since I became her patient after Dr. Garcia Mañero released me to her.  Going back to MD Anderson is not dreaded.  No, it’s more like going back to the people and place where I was given another chance!  Going back home.  It’s looking forward to seeing people I love.  Dr. Garcia Manero, I’m going to see you next time I am there and give you a big hug!  You knew the absolute perfect time for my transplant!

None of this would be possible without one person, my donor and my friend, Robert!  He is my lifesaver.  At 19 years old, he stepped up and donated those awesome stem cells to an unknown stranger.  What an incredible guy he is!  Last summer, my husband and I were honored to attend his wedding to his beautiful bride, Theresa, in Pennsylvania. We stayed with his parents, and were able to meet his extended family and friends.  It was an amazing experience!  You fellow survivors can relate to the indescribable love, closeness, and thankfulness you feel for your donor.   Thank you, Robert, for being my lifesaver.  For your selfless act of giving me your stem cells.  (Best stem cells EVER!)  For your friendship!

Robert got into the Be The match registry through Coach Andy Talley’s “Get in the Game” program.  Thanks, Coach Talley, for all you do to get college athletes into the registry!

For all of you facing a transplant or recovering from one, never give up hope.  Follow your Doctor’s advice and instructions perfectly, take your meds, rely on family and friends for support, keep putting one foot in front of the other even when you don’t feel like it, eat healthy food, exercise, think positive thoughts, develop your spirituality, and be thankful!

This one is for you Robert!  I am so thankful for you and  I love you!  Happy 6!!!!!

09-26-12 “Together We Will End Cancer”

“THE TIME IS NOW.  TOGETHER, WE WILL END CANCER.”  At the news conference I attended, Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of MD Anderson Cancer Center, announced the Moon Shots Program and introduced the teams of doctors and the selected cancers they are going to begin with.

*  Triple-negative breast and ovarian, which are linked at the molecular level

*Leukemia (AML/MDS)  My Dr. Guillermo Garcia-Manero is on this team!  I just KNEW he would be involved in something this great!  He is the BEST!

*Leukemia (CLL)

*Lung

*Melanoma

*Prostate

In his speech, Dr. DePinho made the analogy of President Kennedy in his famous speech saying, “We WILL go to the moon.”  And they did.  “Together we WILL end cancer.”  And they will!

This will be a very ambitious program to reduce cancer deaths.  Lucy Richardson so graciously invited me to attend the conference and a breakfast beforehand.  It was wonderful to visit with other survivors and bloggers.  (And everybody LOVES Lucy!  She is amazing!)  It was a very emotional experience for me as a survivor!  After the news conference I was asked to be video interviewed and every single time I talked about Dr. Garcia-Manero or my grandchildren, I happy cried!  To think that my children and grandchildren will not have to go through what I am going through is beyond words!  I don’t have to rely on hope alone…this Dream Team of doctors is going to make cures and preventions a reality!  Globally!  Shoulder to shoulder!

Wow…this is incredible news!

A few facts from Dr. DePinho’s speech:

* Cancer is a problem that begins early in life.  Early childhood sunburn puts you at a risk for melanoma later in life.

* There are more tanning beds in most major American cities than McDonalds and Starbucks.

* Obesity by 2020 will surpass tobacco as a major driver of cancer.

Prevention is the key.

After the news conference we went over to the main building for a few minutes to see my friend Patti (!) and pick up some paperwork.  I always get this indescribable feeling like I am back at home when I go to MD Anderson.  I guess it is because it was such a life changing and life giving experience for me.  I will  forever be thankful!  What a special place filled with special people!

My sister Jan went with me to Houston and we had a great time.  I was thrilled she was able to go with me to the news conference!  Girl trip…loved it!

This week I am in the throes of my final (12th) cycle of chemotherapy after having a stem cell transplant last year.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to be almost finished!  Just 2 more days:)  There were a few times when I thought I couldn’t go on any longer…so happy I persevered!  Vidaza will hopefully decrease my odds of a relapse of myelodysplastic syndrome.

Thanks to all of you who have been asking about my dad…he had back surgery to straighten up his back which was causing him excruciating pain.  That surgery was successful.  YAY!  But he developed a hematoma and had a second surgery for that, and then another hematoma was removed a week after that.  Three surgeries in three weeks.  Needless to say,we made sure he came home from the hospital WITH the drain tube after the last surgery.  He is having pain in his knee and leg, so he had an MRI yesterday.  Results tomorrow.  We are so hoping it is the healing process of the nerves where the hematomas were.   He has endured so much…send him big love!

Dr. DePinho at the breakfast

Two of my most favorite people, Lucy and Dr. Garcia-Manero

My sister Jan

                                                                                                                                    We got to sit on the front row!!

A final thought…Robin Roberts, I really wish you were at MD Anderson Cancer Center!  My thoughts and prayers are with you!