Imagine you’re 36 and married with two children in elementary school. After an eight-hour surgery, your doctor says, "You have lymphoma*. I don’t think you’ll see Christmas."
The year was 1981.
I tried to comprehend. I sobbed and prayed. Eventually, I had an encounter with our Lord. I was filled with courage and hope. A miraculous inner peace consumed me, and with it came the ability to face all that was ahead. I began to plan with a determination that Christmas was not the end.
I set goals: to see my children graduate from college, find their professions and marry. Today, they’re happily married and they’ve blessed me with five grandchildren.
In 2000, after years of chemotherapy and a failed drug trial, friends told me about MD Anderson. I called and spoke to Dr. Michael Keating, one of the world’s top lymphoma/leukemia specialists. He asked me about my case and said, ‘Be here next Monday.’
Over the next several months, Dr. Keating used combinations of chemo to reduce the cancer. He mentioned I may need a bone marrow transplant, which I did. There were no matches in my family or in the U.S., but through a worldwide search, a 40-year-old man from Germany agreed to give me his cells.
Dr. Issa Khouri, a transplant specialist who developed a mini transplant eliminating only half of the marrow, became my new doctor. I was the fifth person in the world to have this type of transplant. It was my only chance.
A month after the transplant, tests showed the new graft had taken and was producing new T cells.
In 2002, I heard the miracle I’d waited on for so many years. I was in remission. Research has shown that patients who are surrounded by compassion have a better chance of survival. I know this to be true.
I hope my journey will help you or someone you know. Faith, hope and love are so important. Believe in the power of prayer. Miracles do happen."
*Sheryl’s lymphoma was reclassified as CLL in 1996.
Promise invites cancer survivors to share their reflections. Email Promise@mdanderson.org.