On the day after my blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in March 2016, I wrote a thank you card to my donor. “Dear donor…. With sincerest thanks, Recipient.”
The rule at Roswell Park is that all communication between donor and recipient during the first year is censored and edited for anonymity so that neither party feels responsible or guilty should something go wrong. All I knew about my donor was that he was a 32-year-old American male.
I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (AML) in August 2014. Two weeks later I found out that I would need a blood and marrow transplant (BMT). Four out of five of my siblings were tested. My one sister was going to be the donor, but she became ill and passed away before we were able to do the transplant. Afterward, we tried to find another match, but I did not match with anyone on the BMT registry. My youngest daughter Kelly was my only hope for a BMT match.
When Ian Cherico was rushed to the hospital, he was in a fight for his life. “Minutes later and I could have died,” he says. Ian was only 17 years old at the time, and his body was shutting down. It all started with a headache he couldn’t shake.
One year ago, my husband, Roman, was hospitalized at Roswell Park in Buffalo, NY for a stem cell transplant. As Canadians, when we first learned of the opportunity to have BMT at Roswell Park, we had no idea of what lay ahead. We traveled from London, Ontario to Roswell Park for probably the most important meetings of our lives. As Roman met with his physicians and had medical tests, I attended a caregivers’ orientation where an experienced nurse explained my new role.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new indication for the oral drug lenalidomide (brand name Revlimid) as a maintenance therapy for multiple myeloma patients following autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant (ASCT), also known as autologous blood and marrow transplant (BMT).
For patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers, a blood or marrow transplant can be a potential cure. But when the transplant uses marrow or blood stem cells from a donor, it can have two effects — one harmful and the other helpful.
“There he is – there’s my brother!” says Phil Richiuso, spotting the #18 FC Dallas jersey during a Major League Soccer game on TV. Richiuso doesn’t know much about professional soccer. And #18, goalkeeper Chris Seitz, isn’t really related to the 57-year-old man from Erie, PA.
Everything happened so quickly—the trip to the emergency room, the diagnosis of immunoblastic large cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, surgery to partially remove the very large tumor in his chest cavity, multiple courses of chemotherapy.