BMT Survivor - AnnaLynn Surace Williams
Chemotherapy put AnnaLynn into remission. However, a little more than a year later, in January 2010, regular monitoring at Roswell Park revealed that the disease had returned. AnnaLynn’s physician, Eunice Wang, MD, referred her for an allogeneic blood stem cell transplant.
Because AnnaLynn’s brother and sister were not suitable matches, Roswell Park contacted Be the Match (The National Marrow Donor Program) to locate a donor.
“I was very, very lucky to have three 10/10 matches in the registry, and one of them said yes."
Karen Dubel, AAS, RN, BSN, served as AnnaLynn’s transplant coordinator. “She was wonderful. She was amazing,” says AnnaLynn. “At the time, I was on so much medication and so sick, it was hard to keep everything straight. My parents felt the same way. The number of times she repeated things, explained things, was fabulous. She would tell us success stories about other patients.
“It was helpful to know that someone else was taking care of all the details, and all I needed to do was get better. She was in contact with everyone and making all the arrangements. That peace of mind is invaluable.”
“I ended up having my transplant on March 26, 2010. I was shocked at how easy and non-invasive it was — just like a blood transfusion. My family took turns coming in to check on me. I slept most of the day, because they give you a lot of Benadryl, but the transplant itself went very smoothly. I had a nurse or physician next to me at all times, taking care that I was OK, that I was feeling well, checking to see if I needed anything.
“That can be said for the entire hospital stay. There’s always somebody there for you.”
Today, AnnaLynn is pursuing a PhD in epidemiology at the University of Rochester. She plans to focus her career on cancer survivors, especially on the long-term effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
In August 2013, she married Mark Williams, who was by her side from the time of her initial diagnosis. One special guest at their wedding: Jesse Selvidge, a woman from Marietta, Georgia, who was AnnaLynn’s donor.
AnnaLynn’s advice for future BMT patients: “Try to stay as active as you can. I was against physical therapy the first couple of times I was admitted, and I left the hospital both times extremely weak, so when I went in for my transplant, I told myself: you have to do physical therapy. It made a huge difference in my recovery.
“Take one day at a time. Remember, it’s not about how long it takes; it’s just about getting better. Stay positive. And don’t rush back into life. Enjoy your time with your family and get back into life slowly. Take time after your transplant to enjoy being a survivor and everything that means.”