In 2010, my sister was diagnosed with MDS a “pre-cancer” where the bone marrow does not function properly. Without a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, it is highly likely a patient will develop an aggressive and terminal form of Leukemia (AML).
My sister received medication that kept the MDS in remission for years, however, in May 2016 the same week in which my younger sister Cathy was diagnosed with a recurrence of Breast Cancer, Connie’s medication became ineffective. In the fall of 2016, Connie’s condition worsened, and it was determined without a stem cell transplant, she would not survive.
My brothers and I were tested, (my older brother had died in 1988 and my sister Cathy died 6 weeks after her diagnosis). I was a 100% match, and I was overjoyed! The doctors began to prepare my sister for the transplant. She was placed in the transplant unit where she received harsh chemotherapy in an attempt to kill off the cancer cells without killing her.
I also had to prepare by having several tests and blood tests (22 vials worth). A week prior to the transplant I received daily shots of Neupogen to stimulate neutrophil production. While the neutrophils are multiplying, my bone marrow worked overtime causing at times severe bone pain. This process was difficult in many ways, but the physical pain and isolation for me to remain healthy, paled in comparison to what was going on in my mind and heart.
A Heavy Burden
The thought that my sister’s life was in my hands was at times emotionally overwhelming. What if after being a match, I wasn’t healthy enough to donate? What if I didn’t produce enough cells? What if I needed a central line because my veins couldn’t handle the extraction (I had to get a central line). What if it doesn’t work? What if… what if… What if my blood couldn’t save her? And, why couldn’t I have done something to save my younger sister? Lord, why Connie and not Cathy? Why couldn’t I save both? At times my heart was broken and torn!…