Stem cell transplant survivor: Happy 6th birthday to me!
What an exciting year this has been! On April 17, 2017, I celebrated my 62nd birthday. About a month later, I celebrated my 6th. Confused? I’ll explain.
This year’s anniversary of the day I actually came into the world began with my phone ringing at 6 a.m. Early calls usually don’t bode well, so I just assumed it was an emergency. Instead, it was my son, Hayes, singing me happy birthday.
That call started my morning off in the best possible way, and I continued to receive birthday greetings from friends and other family members throughout the day. As I did, it got me thinking.
I thought about how I no longer “think” like a sick person. I thought about how I have my mojo back. I thought about how incredibly blessed I am to have my health, my family and my awesome husband, Wade. And I thought about how everything I went through to get here was totally worth it.
My stem cell transplant: another chance at life after myelodysplastic syndrome
My generous donor’s stem cells were on their way, and I would be receiving them the next day via transfusion. Only a fellow transplant survivor can understand that feeling: to be so sick, yet so hopeful. It is truly indescribable.
At that time, the thought of being 10 or even five years down the road from my transplant was unimaginable. I was living my life from minute to minute back then, so even one year seemed like an eternity.
But my “new life” began the day I had a stem cell transplant at MD Anderson. And I’ve observed May 24, 2011, as my “second birthday” ever since.
Celebrating six years after my stem cell transplant
Neither that birthday nor this one would’ve been possible without one other person: my stem cell donor.
My donor is literally my savior. At the age of only 19, he stepped up and donated stem cells to a total stranger: me. And after the year-long mandatory waiting period was up, he revealed his identity and became my friend, too.
Last summer, my husband and I had the privilege of attending his wedding. We stayed with his parents, and were able to meet his extended family and friends. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
A special gift for my ‘second birthday’
A few weeks ago, I had my six-month check-up at MD Anderson with Dr. Chitra Hosing. I always enjoy my visits with her, but this time, she had a special gift for me. She said that my blood work was so normal, we had nothing medical to discuss. Then she asked, “Can we just visit instead?” Now, how often do you hear that from a doctor?!
I was delighted, of course, so we chatted for a while. Then we hugged, and I thought about how much I love her. I also thought about the wonderful care she’s given me since I became her patient.
People like Dr. Hosing are the reason going back to MD Anderson is not something I dread. It’s actually something I look forward to, because this is the place I was given another chance.
The next time I go back, I’m planning to give Dr. Guillermo Garcia Mañero a big hug, too, because he knew the absolute perfect time for my stem cell transplant. And I will always be grateful to him and my donor for my “second birthday.” I owe every birthday — of both kinds — I’ve celebrated since to them.