Although it sounds strange, I am beginning to believe that breast cancer might have saved my life. In October 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 2 lobular carcinoma of the breast. I opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy and then had 33 radiation treatments in early 2016. I saw my oncologist every month for treatment and she ran bloodwork every time. My numbers had been a little off, but nothing too worrisome.
Then my oncologist Dr. Hassan began to notice that my numbers were not improving. In fact, there was a continual decrease in my hemoglobin, hematocrit and my red and white blood cell counts. She ran more tests, and I had a liver biopsy. She eventually decided that a bone marrow biopsy was needed, and we were shocked to hear the results.
She said I had MDS, specifically the 5q deletion subtype. Dr. Hassan explained that this typically is seen in people around age 70 and that the best treatment for a 50 year-old like me, would likely be a bone marrow transplant. She then referred me to Kansas University (KU) Cancer Center in Kansas City, the closest transplant center to our home.
We began meeting with the KU staff the next week. Dr. Singh and his nurse BMT coordinator, explained the process to us and performed yet another bone marrow biopsy. After consulting with each other, my doctors determined that my blast count was better than expected and they held off on moving immediately to transplant. Instead, I was given oral chemotherapy and, so far, it has helped my blood counts.
In the meantime, KU tested my brother and sister tested to see if they were a donor match for me. It was found that they were a 100% match to each other. We had to wait for insurance approval to test my tissue with theirs.
My daughter, Sara, couldn't wait to see if I’d have my sibling match, so she reached out to DKMS to organize swabbing drives. The thought of people contributing a DNA sample to try to help me was overwhelming and humbling, as was the support I had from my church family.
My insurance finally gave approval to test my tissue, and we could hardly believe the good news. I was a 100% match with both my brother and my sister! Sara decided to continue with her planned drives – four in all – to help all of the patients who aren’t as fortunate as I was.