Three Years Out….just thinkin

Today is my 3rd birthday!  Three years ago I received a stem cell transplant at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  For the past week, I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking.

Thinking about Robert, my donor.  It was because of Robert’s totally unselfish, brave, and life saving act of donating his stem cells to a complete stranger, that I am writing this post today.  He was 19 years old at the time.  Even if he wasn’t my donor, I would still be completely impressed with Robert!  We had a great time together last summer in Chicago, along with my husband, Wade, Robert’s girlfriend, Theresa, and friends, Josh and Nicole.  Since Robert and I both like baseball, we attended a major league game in Chicago, the White Sox vs the Yankees (on that very day it was decided A-Rod could play…we sat 13 rows above 3rd base, and it was awesome!).  One perfect moment of this trip was getting a cab with Robert that had a Be The Match ad on top of the car with a photo of Robin Roberts!  It was mind blowing, and I really don’t feel like it was a random thing! 

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Thinking about how my life has changed.  I have a new ability to see people and things differently.  Call it intuitiveness, perceptiveness, achtung.  My priorities have changed.  I see things differently.  I have felt more connected to people, more caring toward people.  Just one example…last year while staying at the Greenbriar in West Virginia,I felt compelled to make friends with the doorman who has been employed there for more than 50 years.  We became great friends, and have in fact, corresponded.  His name is Frankie, and he is a loveable, perfect gentle man. He was very cautious not to breech any confidentialities, but did tell me Bob Hope was one of his favorite guests!   He was going to church that night and put me on their prayer list.  Here is a photo of Frankie and me.  (And go to the Greenbriar if you can!  It is an unbelievable place!)

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Thinking about MD Anderson Cancer Center, what a great institution it is, and how many lives they have saved.   Thinking about how caring and professional the staff is.  And my Awesome Doctors!  They truly are the best, the cream of the crop, unparalelled.  Dr.Garcia-Manero, my MDS doctor, and Dr. Hosing, my stem cell transplant doctor.  I can’t thank them enough!

 

Thinking about my husband Wade, my care giver.  He truly gave me the best care in the most loving, understanding way.  He provided me the opportunity to receive the best care in the world at MD Anderson.  And his caring and love never ends!  Thank you Wade!

 

Thinking about my family and the sacrifices they have made for me, and the unconditional love they have for me.  Thinking about my adorable grandchildren whom I love deeply am able to act normal and crazy with now that I am well.  This thought brings me back to Robert…

 

Thinking about Robert, who made this all possible for me.  Thinking about how thankful I am for him.  Thinking about how alike (but different) we are.  Thinking about how much I love him.  Thinking about how excited I am to see him and Theresa in just 3 1/2 weeks!  Thinking about how it was a “meant to be” thing that he joined the Be The Match registry.

 

It’s been a wonderful, eye-opening, blessed, amazing journey!  Thank you Robert!

 

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Wade, Holly, Robert, Theresa

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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!