Today is the one-year anniversary of my bone marrow transplant. Many call the transplant day your new birthday and that’s what it feels like to me. One year ago I received new stem cells to replace my old diseased cells. It was a new lifeline and a new birth, and the day I turned into a boy. Well, my chromosomes anyway since I had a male donor, an anonymous 27-year old man who is my hero.
When I was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2012, my entire world was turned upside down. I was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), which had advanced to the worst stage called ‘blast crisis’ and was given only a 20% chance of survival. This was an unbelievable diagnosis for a healthy 31-year old who had recently completed the New York Marathon.
Throughout my transplant, I was hooked up to so many bags of toxic chemicals that they had to bring in a second infusion pump. When I got scared, my best friend Katie, who had been through multiple courses of chemotherapy during her 6-year fight against colon cancer, said to me, “Don’t think of them as toxins, think of them as soldiers fighting the cancer cells. You are a warrior princess and the chemo is your army.”
Last year on this day, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Team In Training (TNT) team in Santa Barbara celebrated my ‘zero’ birthday with a party and cake and sent me this video, which I watched from my hospital bed. This year, I celebrate my first birthday with my new friends from TNT and Team Stephanie in San Francisco. TNT has become my family, my support, the place I feel most comfortable as I try to adjust to ‘normal’ life again.
Team Stephanie is a group of friends and family who have joined together to run the Nike Women’s Marathon on October 20th and raise funds for LLS to support research to help find a cure for blood cancer. As of today, we’ve raised over $189,000 and we’re not stopping! Please visit the Team Stephanie webpage to learn more and make a donation.
I’m always aware and so grateful that since my diagnosis, LLS has been by my side in many ways. Most importantly, LLS funded the research that developed the chemotherapy drug that kept me alive while waiting for my transplant, which I still take every day to keep my leukemia from coming back. I know that soon LLS will find a cure. We are so close, someday is TODAY!